Peter Lynch, vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Research Company and trustee associate at Boston College, has gifted 27 paintings and three drawings—worth in excess of $20 million—from his and his late wife Carolyn’s private art collection to Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art, including renowned works from Pablo Picasso, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam, Albert Bierstadt, Martin Johnson Heade, and Jack Butler Yeats.
The donation includes an additional $5 million grant to support the ongoing curation and exhibition of what will be called the Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Collection, making the total gift one of the largest in University history.
Lynch, a 1965 graduate of Boston College, said he donated the art to the McMullen Museum to inspire Boston College students and Museum visitors through the diverse collection of paintings and drawings from 20 of the world’s most acclaimed artists.
“My hope is that this artwork, all of which my wife Carolyn and I collected during our 50 years together, will help students to develop a deeper understanding of art and its importance as a form of expression,” said Lynch, who received an honorary degree from BC in 1995. “All students definitely can learn from this collection, which includes a diversity of styles of painting, many of which depict the natural beauty of our country from its most celebrated painters. I also wanted to enhance the McMullen Museum’s permanent collection through our donation and encourage others to follow.”
Among the notable pieces in the collection are Pablo Picasso’s drawing Head; Winslow Homer’s painting Grace Hoops; Mary Cassatt’s watercolor Mother and Child; John Singer Sargent’s painting Olive Trees, Corfu; and Jack Butler Yeats’s 1929 painting Farewell to Mayo, which British actor Sir Laurence Olivier gifted as a wedding present to actress Vivien Leigh.
Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., the consultative curator of American art at Harvard University's Fogg Museum and former curator of American paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, described the collection as “an extraordinary compilation of artwork” that includes masterpieces any museum in the nation would desire.
“This collection reflects Peter and his love of the sea and nature,” said Stebbins. “He and Carolyn acquired wonderful seascapes and marine paintings, as well as remarkable non-marines that include some of the masterpieces of the collection such as Martin Johnson Heade’s Orchid and Hummingbirds Near a Mountain Lake, which is an extraordinary painting and the best Heade orchid artwork ever painted.
“Winslow Homer’s Grace Hoops is an unusual, wonderful, touching painting about young women at that age, and Albert Bierstadt’s Newport Rocks is a gem; there is nothing like it. Bradford’s Among the Ice Floes is a stunning painting, representing Bradford at his absolute best. Each painting is beautiful and tells a unique story of American life. It is an extraordinary collection for Boston College and the community.”
Nancy Netzer, the Inaugural Robert L. and Judith T. Winston Director of the McMullen Museum, said the Museum is honored that the Lynch family has entrusted this outstanding collection to its care. “This is a transformational gift for the McMullen Museum, allowing expansion of our role as a vital educational resource offered free of charge not only to the Boston College community but also to all students and the public, wherever they may be,” said Netzer.
A professor of art history in the Department of Art, Art History, and Film at Boston College, Netzer said the Museum would work in partnership with BC faculty and students and with scholars from around the world to initiate new research on the artwork and share new insights and contemporary interpretations with its multiple audiences.
“Carolyn and Peter Lynch’s generosity and their focused, discerning collecting over many decades have brightened the future of the McMullen Museum’s offerings to New England and beyond. We are profoundly grateful to them.”
Lynch said he first took an interest in art after visiting the Museum of Fine Arts as a boy with his mother and repeatedly admiring John Singleton Copley’s master painting Watson and the Shark. His interest was further piqued after taking art history classes as a student at Boston College. In his 30s, he and Carolyn were a part of a group of collectors at the MFA called “The Young Seminarians,” whose major focus was furniture before turning to paintings. His interest in art collecting grew after marrying Carolyn, who passed away 2015.
“When we got married, Carolyn and I did not have money to purchase art, so the fine art collection came later. We cherished having this art in our homes, but it is now time to give it away so that it can be studied and enjoyed by others.”
Lynch said that his personal favorites from the collection include Diego Rivera’s drawing of a family, the Martin Johnson Heade painting Orchid and Hummingbirds Near a Mountain Lake, William Bradford’s Among the Ice Floes, and Albert Bierstadt’s Near the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, which, Lynch said, he was inspired to acquire following one of his more than 25 visits to U.S. National Parks with his wife and three daughters.
“I know that the collection was sought after by other museums, but I wanted it to go to my alma mater, which dramatically improved my life, and where my father taught mathematics and physics, my wife proudly received an honorary degree in 2009, and my daughter Annie spent four wonderful and productive years,” said Lynch. “This donation will help enhance the outstanding work that Nancy Netzer has done at the McMullen Museum. I hope that many of our 10 grandchildren will go to BC, where they and their classmates can view the art our children grew up admiring, and that visitors from throughout New England will come to see the collection at this jewel of a Museum.”
The Lynches have been longtime supporters of Boston College and are among the school’s most generous benefactors. Their donations have included a gift of more than $10 million in 1999 to name the Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch School of Education and Human Development, and a $20 million gift beginning in 2010 to establish The Lynch Leadership Academy, which trains and provides support for principals and aspiring principals from throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“I am an extremely lucky person who has been so blessed in life,” said Lynch. “Giving this collection to Boston College is a small way for me to give back.”