Oliver Wunsch was scrolling through the news early on Tuesday morning when a headline about Boston College caught his eye. While reading about Peter Lynch’s donation of his art collection worth upward of $20 million to the McMullen Museum of Art, Wunsch realized the gravity of welcoming the collection to BC.
“I understood that this was going to forever change the McMullen Museum and the place of Boston College, and the broader U.S. museum world,” Wunsch, an assistant professor of art history at BC, said. “It really puts Boston College on the map.”
The donation includes 27 paintings and three drawings from the private collection of Lynch and his late wife, Carolyn. The collection—named the Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Collection—includes pieces by artists working during the 19th and 20th centuries, including Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargent, Diego Rivera, and Mary Cassatt.
Wunsch, who has focused his research and teaching on European and American painting in the 18th and 19th centuries, said that the arrival of the collection will offer both art historians and other members of the BC community valuable opportunities to engage with the art.
“I think that the choice of Boston College … with people from all different areas of the University ready to come engage with these objects just means we’re going to learn so much more about [the art] in the years to come,” Wunsch said.
As the departmental chairperson of art, art history, and film, Stephanie Leone said she foresees that professors will incorporate the pieces into their lectures and discussions. With the artworks just down the street from BC’s main campus, students will also be able to utilize the pieces as research topics, Leone said.
“Every generation of scholars brings new interpretations and new contextualization to paintings,” Leone said. “So, I imagine there’ll be a lot of new and exciting questions, and then interpretations that come out of studying these paintings.”
The collection can also allow students pursuing a concentration in museum studies to research the pieces, drawing connections between the works and formulating exhibitions, Leone said.
The art provides students with an opportunity to discover the works’ global connections, Wunsch said. Before creating “Orchid and Hummingbirds Near a Mountain Lake,” one of the donated paintings, artist Martin Johnson Heade traveled to Central and South America, according to Wunsch. The striking naturalist painting provides insight into the global context of art created in the United States, Wunsch said.
Some of the works the McMullen will welcome also present opportunities for interdisciplinary study, according to Wunsch. In a painting by William Bradford titled “Among the Ice Floes,” jagged icebergs protrude from a green-tinted ocean. A wooden ship is beached on an icy shore while small human figures stand nearby. Wunsch said that the painting can be used to pose questions about art’s connection to climate change.
According to Leone, the collection will not only enhance the study of art history, but also has the potential to inspire art and film students who are creating their own creative projects.
“I think it will really help us to enhance our students’ education, their interaction with works of art, and really prepare them well for going on to future careers in art, in art history, or simply becoming … great museum goers when they leave BC,” Leone said.
Featured Image Courtesy of Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Collection at the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College