The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College has received its most significant gift ever: a trove that includes 27 paintings by acclaimed artists including Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt — along with three works on paper, including one by Diego Rivera.
Peter Lynch, vice chairman of Fidelity Management and a graduate of the college, amassed the collection with his late wife Carolyn over many decades. Boston College estimates their gifts’ worth to be more than $20 million dollars. It’s now counted among the largest donations ever given to the school in its 130-year history.
Museum director and Boston College art history professor Nancy Netzer is moved and honored to be entrusted as the collection’s steward and calls this a transformational moment.
“It allows us to expand our role as a vital educational resource, which is offered free of charge to our own university community and the public,” she said.
Netzer added that an additional $5 million grant from the Lynches will enable the museum, Boston College faculty and scholars from other institutions to research the “outstanding and unusual” artworks’ untold stories.
The McMullen Museum opened in 1993 and has been building its permanent holdings slowly. Netzer said the new additions date primarily from the 1860s through the 1930s. Most are American and focus on one of the couple’s favorite subjects–the New England seascape.
Peter Lynch graduated from Boston College in 1965 and hopes the artworks he and his wife purchased during their 50 years together will help students more deeply appreciate art as a form of expression.
“When we got married, Carolyn and I did not have money to purchase art, so the fine art collection came later,” he said in a statement. “We cherished having the art in our homes, but it is now time to give it away so that it can be studied and enjoyed by others.”
Some standouts in this unprecedented gift include Mary Cassatt’s watercolor, “Mother and Child,” “Olive Trees, Corfu,” by John Singer Sargent and Jack Butler Yeats’s early 20th-century painting, “Farewell to Mayo,” which actress Vivien Leigh received from actor Laurence Olivier when they got married.
“I know that the collection was sought after by other museums,” Lynch added, “but I wanted it to go to my alma mater, which dramatically improved my life.” His father was a math professor at Boston College and in 2009 Lynch’s wife Carolyn received an honorary degree there.
When asked if she was excited about any particular work in the collection Netzer smiled and said, “Now that’s a little bit like asking someone to choose his or her favorite child. This is a premiere collection.”