Huntington Library Blue Boy Loan Tied To Joseph Wright Byrd


The Times has learned that a monumental painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, sometimes referred to as Britain’s “Industrial Revolution Artist” and “Enlightenment Artist”, is in talks to lease the Huntington Library, Art Museum and San Marino Botanical Gardens. …

The painting is “The Experiment on the Bird in the Air Pump”, a dramatically illuminated scene with the participation of a large number of characters who witnessed a life-and-death scientific test. Wright wrote it in 1768 when he was 34 years old.

The mutual loan will be provided in exchange for the “Blue Boy” Thomas Gainsborough, who is set to begin a controversial four-month period. Exhibition in January at the National Gallery of London. Wright and Gainsborough were British contemporaries working in the late 1700s.

Who is who of nine international restorers of European Old Master paintings gathered in Huntington in 2018 warned against letting the famous Gainsborough travel, arguing that risk of potential structural damage to a fragile 250-year-old canvas.

Huntington officials began disbursing the loan, citing approval the following year from second panel three curators of North American museums; and three conservatives whose identities were not disclosed. The 2019 panelists were guaranteed anonymity to encourage them to speak freely about the plan, a spokesman for Huntington said.

Melinda McCurdy, curator of British art at Huntington, described Wright’s painting as “a manifestation of the power of the sublime.” In a telephone interview, she said that if a loan deal is struck, the museum hopes to build a small exhibition dedicated to the science behind Wright’s painting, including 18th British scholarly works of the century from the extensive collection of the Huntington Library.

It is also possible to include Wright’s fire landscape depicting a mountain. The eruption of Vesuvius, an elaborate version of what he probably witnessed during a visit to Naples, Italy in 1774. The painting was acquired by Huntington in 1997.

A representative from the National Gallery could not be contacted.

Wright’s painting The Air Pump Bird Experiment dates from 1768, about the same time as The Blue Boy, which was painted around 1770. Measuring 6 feet by 8 feet, Wright’s much larger canvas showcases the grand scale of historical painting on an unusual contemporary scene.

Six adults and four children gathered in a circular formation around a table in a makeshift science lab to witness an unstable experiment in which air is drawn from a large glass vessel to create a vacuum. Children can be scared and curious in different ways. Adults ponder, ponder, persuade children to pay attention and portray the drama of the experiment.

The focus is on a white cockatoo inside a vessel at the top of the composition, which is sure to suffocate, indicating that there is no air in a vacuum. Exotic and expensive imports from Australia or the South Pacific, where the British Empire was just beginning to expand, the white bird hints at the dove.

The Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit here gives way to the power of science, natural law and imperial power. Above is the raised hand of a naturalist who looks straight ahead to present viewers with a question of life and death. The young couple on the left, indifferent to the lab riddle and focused instead on each other, enacts the riddle of human love.

The “Air Pump Bird Experiment” is a so-called “candle” dramatically illuminated by a flame hidden behind a glass beaker on a laboratory bench. What appears to be a sample of a lung — or, as some believe, a dissolving skull — floats in the light-scattering liquid of a beaker.

Wright transforms Caravaggio’s theatrical technique of chiaroscuro, popularized in the 16th and 17th centuries as a religious comparison of spiritual enlightenment, as a metaphor for rational enlightenment.

Although Wright trained in London, he worked primarily in Derby, where he was born in 1734 and died in 1797. He was associated with a group of intellectuals called the Lunar Society, who met monthly on the night of the full moon. Outside the window, in the National Gallery painting, the moon shines brightly in the indigo cloudy sky.

Joseph Wright from Derby Volcano Eruption Oil Painting

Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius of Portici, circa 1774-1776, Oil on canvas

(Huntington Library, Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens)

The first major British artist to retain his studio primarily in London, Wright is often referred to as “from Derby.” The city is located in the industrial heart of England, in a rich 18-year-old the century-old center for the study of natural history, scientific experimentation and industrial growth 125 miles north of London. His clients and associates included Josiah Wedgwood, who industrialized ceramics, and Erasmus Darwin, a botanist-poet and grandfather of evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin.

Huntington’s permanent collection includes two other easel paintings by Wright, in addition to Vesuvius of Portici and three drawings by the artist.

Last year, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Brentwood added: “Two boys with a bladder»To two canvases of the artist in his collection. Getty’s newly discovered painting of Wright’s candles shows light glowing through a toy made from an inflated pig bubble.

Then UK Minister of the Arts Helen Whateley tried unsuccessfully to block an export license, describing it as “paramount importance“, So that the picture does not leave Britain. The painting was put on display at Getty immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic began to close.

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