Past exhibition


January 20 through April 17, 2016

Much is known internationally of Irish artists James Barry, the Neoclassicist, Daniel Maclise, the arch Victorian, and the Expressionist Jack B. Yeats, but many other significant artists have slipped into obscurity – Daniel Macdonald (1820-1853) more than most.

Macdonald was the subject the exhibition In the Lion’s Den at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University on view from January 20 through April 17, 2016.   Macdonald was one of the most talented, audacious and experimental artists of his time.

Daniel Macdonald holds the distinction of having painted the only known painting of the Great Famine, An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store, exhibited in London in 1847, now in the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. The death of one million people, the emigration of another million, and the subsequent depletion of the population of Ireland by one half made the Famine the single worst demographic catastrophe of the nineteenth century – one that was largely avoidable.

In the Lion’s Den was an important landmark in Irish and Irish-American cultural and social history, and was the first exhibition of its kind.

In the Lion’s Den was curated by Niamh O’Sullivan.

Art New England
Hartford Courant
Irish Central
Irish Examiner
The Irish Times
The Irish Times
The New York Times
Republican American
Republican American

Macdonald Publication:
In the Lion’s Den: Daniel Macdonald, Ireland and Empire by Niamh O’Sullivan is available to purchase at the museum and online.

This book is the first critical biography of Daniel Macdonald and examines his life and work in the context of the social, political and cultural flux, before and during the Great Famine, in Cork and London.

In Europe the book is available for purchase through Cork University Press.

Educational Materials:
Download an educational guide based on the exhibition for use in the classroom. For more information on school trips to the museum, please visit our School and Education Program page.

Educational Activity – In the Lion’s Den: Daniel Macdonald, Ireland and Empire
Supplemental materials – Scenes of Everyday Life in Ireland

Exhibition Credit: 
In the Lion’s Den was funded in part by a grant from Connecticut Humanities and event sponsorship from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

Images from left: 
Daniel Macdonald, The Fighter, 1844, oil on canvas. Lent by Sir Michael Smurfit.
Daniel Macdonald, An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store, c. 1847, oil on canvas. Lent by University College Dublin, National Folklore Collection.
Daniel Macdonald, Courtship, 1847, ink on buff colored paper. Lent by The Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.