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NKU Receives Dozens of Pieces of Art Depicting Moby-Dick, Likely Setting A Record

Red Fire by Aileen Callahan

January 10, 2024 - Northern Kentucky University is excited to announce a donation of 66 charcoal drawings interpreting Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick” by retired Boston College art professor and artist Aileen Callahan. With the addition of the new drawings, NKU likely has the largest collection of art depicting the literary classic at any college or university. 

The new additions will be added to Steely Library’s Special Collections, which already houses over 200 works of art depicting “Moby-Dick” by artists such as Robert Del Tredici, Matt Kish, and Vali Meyers, among many others. This is Callahan’s largest collection of artwork, with many of the pieces currently on display at the Danforth Museum in Massachusetts. 

Dr. Robert Wallace, NKU Regents Professor of English, is a leading expert on “Moby-Dick” and teaches courses specifically studying “Moby-Dick and the Arts.” Dr. Wallace uses much of the artwork in our Special Collections to aid in teaching his course, which he will be teaching again in Spring 2024. 

Callahan has been creating images of whales from her “Birth of Moby Dick” series in the early 2000s to her “Pandemic” watercolors in the early 2020s. She began the series of large charcoal drawings coming to NKU in the mid-2010s. Wallace finds them “unique for their ability to convey the shape, texture, force, finesse, and symbolism of the skin of the whale though abstract patterns of charcoal on a white paper ground.”

About Northern Kentucky University: NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of more than 15,000 students on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. Ranked in the top 50 out of 400 universities nationwide by The Wall Street Journal for exceptional value, we are a regionally engaged university committed to delivering an innovative, student-centered education. We empower our graduates to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives, while contributing to the economic, civic and social vitality of the region. For more information, visit