Derby Museums Acquire Rare Joseph Wright Self Portrait

19/05/2022

Derby Museum and Art Gallery has unveiled its most recent acquisition ‘Self-Portrait at the Age of About Forty’ in its Joseph Wright Gallery.

This remarkable painting by world renowned artist Joseph Wright, who was born and lived in Derby, has been accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government under a hybrid arrangement and allocated to Derby Museums, administered by Arts Council England. Further support has come from a range of funding bodies including a major donation of £2,271,621 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, support from Art Fund, and a number of private donations, including Robert. M. Kirkland one of Derby Museums’ generous supporters.

The painting also comes with an added bonus which further demonstrates the working process of Wright. The verso (or reverse of the painting) shows a study for Wright’s famous painting An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump. It was painted in or just prior to 1768 and sheds important light on the development of Wright’s ideas for The Air Pump; a painting that is widely credited as the artist’s masterpiece and the first of his works to enter a British public collection when it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1863.

The painting, which is approximately 30 by 25 inches, is in its original elaborate frame and will be on permanent display in the Joseph Wright Gallery at Derby Museum and Art Gallery in a bespoke free-standing case which allow both sides of the painting to be viewed.

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