The Snite Museum's exhibition of Irish art, "Looking at the Stars," captivates the University community

Author: Mary Hendriksen


An extraordinary exhibition at the Snite Museum of Art': "'Looking at the Stars': Irish Art at the University of Notre Dame" has captivated the University community since its opening in August.

The exhibit contains more than twenty paintings that were part of a generous gift by the Keough Family. They include such jewels as Paul Henry’s Roadside Village, Mary Swanzy’s Young Claudius, and Jack B. Yeats’ Driftwood in a Cave.

Also included are the loan of several modern and contemporary masterpieces from the O'Brien Collection as well as compelling black-and-white photographs by the Irish artist Alen Macweeney, who will speak at the museum on Tuesday, October 8.

In a statement acknowledging the Keough Family's gift, Keough-Naughton Institute Director Patrick Griffin, the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, issued this statement:

"This gift of Irish paintings is all the more meaningful because it comes from the Keough Family, one of our University’s and our Institute of Irish Studies’ most generous benefactors.  Don and Marilyn Keough made the leadership gift in 1992 that established our Institute.  We are proud to include the Keough name in our title.

"Since our founding we have worked to lay claim to the position of world leader in Irish Studies.

"Up to this point, our focus has been on language, literature, and history.  Most recently we have ventured into a new area: modern Ireland.

"Despite all our efforts, in the visual arts we have lagged behind. The Keoughs’ gift will allow us to forge a new path. Our scholars and students can now better appreciate the depth, range, and vitality of the visual arts within Ireland’s artistic culture. The Keough Collection augments the university’s collection of prints and helps to foster relationships with such prominent Irish art collectors as John and Patricia O’Brien of Chicago. Moreover, as we have endeavored to demonstrate through our programming partnership with the Snite Museum this fall, the Keough Collection paintings are also a springboard for amplifying other modes of artistic expression—literary, poetic, and musical.

"Thus, right in the galleries that house the paintings, we have sponsored a reading by the prominent Irish playwright Marina Carr, listened to Professor Frank Shovlin speak on the life of the novelist John McGahern, and reveled in the program “Songs from Joyce” by musicians John Feeley and Fran O’Rourke. Still this semester, we look forward to a reading by one of Ireland’s leading poets, John Deane (Friday, November 1, 3:30 p.m.), in the O’Shaughnessy Galleries where the exhibition is on display, and a talk by ethnomusicologist Aileen Dillane on the distinctive “conversation” that occurs between music and paintings (Tuesday, November 12, 12 noon).

"While thrilled on so many fronts for the Keough Family’s incredible gift, I am perhaps most grateful for the way that, right from the start, this collection of Irish art has enriched the experiences of our Irish Studies graduate and undergraduate students. Our students have explored the paintings on individual visits and during our Irish Studies events in the galleries. Their understanding of Irish culture will also be enriched by the insights of the president of O’Brien International and curator of the O’Brien Family Collection Marty Fahey, who will lead our students through several visualization exercises, all designed to create a deeper engagement with these works of Irish art.

"In all these ways, the Keough Family’s gift has served both as the foundation for and an impetus for a fuller understanding of Irish art and Irish culture. The paintings are more than an aesthetic contribution to Notre Dame. They are a gift that helps to build a bridge between Ireland and America—an endeavor that is at the very heart of our Institute."


For a complete and up-to-date list of events surrounding the "Looking at the Stars" exhibit, please see the Snite Museum of Art's EVENTS page.

Credit for the painting represented above: Mary Swanzy (1882–1978), Young Claudius (detail), 1942, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. Gift of the Donald and Marilyn Keough Foundation, 2019.001.002. © The Artist's Estate.