Jack Reilly (1942–2014) was a native of Pittsburgh and the grandson of a coal miner. He attended the University of Notre Dame and earned a B.A. degree in 1963 and a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1964. After serving in the United States Navy during the Viet Nam War, he earned his MBA from Harvard University. A resident of Washington, D.C., Reilly was the president of his own financial advising firm involved in real estate.
He was a generous benefactor, establishing the John J. Reilly (named after his father) Center for Science, Technology, and Values. Among other gifts, he had supported the Arts and Letters/Engineering Dual-Degree program since 1984 with scholarships for students completing their programs. It is within this context of providing a broad humanistic experience in which students reflect on world history and culture while studying science and technology that Reilly formed his art collection for the benefit of the University community and the public more generally.
In 1985, he made his first gift of an oil sketch by the Italian artist Gaetano Gandolfi’s The Rejection of Cain’s Offering and the Sacrifice of Manoah (ca. 1779) in honor of his late mother, Sarah Butler Reilly. Not long after that, an important collection of drawings gathered by curator and scholar John Minor Wisdom Jr. became available, and Reilly agreed to purchase it for the Snite Museum. Since that initial foray into collecting, Reilly continued to add to this core collection in consultation with then curator of Western art, Stephen Spiro, buying regularly at auctions in New York and London. The drawings collection now includes nearly six hundred impressive examples of draftsmanship by Dutch, British, German, French, and Italian masters from every epoch and in every medium, from a fifteenth-century silverpoint to twentieth-century watercolors. The drawings have been the subject of intensive study and original research by faculty and students at the University of Notre Dame as well as by scholars from North America and Europe. From 2011 through 2013, an exhibition of some of his French drawings toured the United States. Loan requests for his drawings from museums around the globe attest to the Collection’s renown.
Occasionally, Reilly acquired paintings to add to his growing collection of drawings. Such is the case for the neoclassical example The Fury of Achilles (1810) by Alexandre Denis Abel de Pujol and Joseph Sold into Bondage by His Brothers (ca. 1760) by Jean Baptiste Henri Deshays. Gaspard Dughet’s Landscape with a Lake (17th century) expands the Museum’s holdings of French classical art. Constantin Meunier’s Miners at the Shaft (before 1867) and Landscape with a Factory (1886) with a coal cart in the lower right corner had special meaning for Reilly in light of his heritage.