Forming part of The Grand Tour Season 3, Derby Museums and award-winning photographer Simon Mackney have joined together on a project to recreate two 21st century versions of one of Joseph Wright’s most iconic portraits of the industrial era – the painting of Sir Richard Arkwright, mill owner and entrepreneur.
The painting has been the stimulus behind two original portrait photographs which now form part of ‘The Art of Industry: From Joseph Wright to the 21st Century’ (24 March – 17 June 2018); a new exhibition at Derby Museum and Art Gallery which looks back at the region’s industrial history through both historic artefacts and artistic interpretation.
Derby-based photographer Simon Mackney and digital artist Tom Harris have worked with two of the region’s leaders in industry to recreate the Wright’s portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright – one of the influencers in the industrial era and a pioneer in mill developments which led to mass-scale manufacturing we know today.
Liz Fothergill CBE – Chairman of Pennine Healthcare which employs over 300 people in the Derbyshire region – and Robert Kirkland – Director of the Bowmer & Kirkland Group which employs over 1300 people in the UK, UAE & USA – were selected to pose as Arkwright in Simon Mackney’s 21st century take on the Joseph Wright portrait.
The sittings took several hours, and Mackney’s digital artist Tom edited, manipulated and perfected the images in Photoshop over a period of several days to replicate the original painting of Joseph Wright. The final results can be seen at Derby Museum and Art Gallery until mid-June.
Following the main themes within the Wright painting but with modern twists, Simon looked to reconstruct Arkwright using contemporary components within the original framework of the piece.
Wright’s style and exceptional use of light is admired by Simon who followed this through his own use of low light; at the same time Wright’s realistic depiction of his subjects worked to the advantage of the medium of photography.
On the project, photographer Simon Mackney says:
“When I was recently reminded of our region’s finest artist, Joseph Wright, and his amazing use of light in his work, I knew I had found my latest inspiration; his work is truly awesome. After visiting the Gallery and appreciating his images close up once again, I felt so inspired to try and embody his work through photography.”
Liz Fothergill CBE, comments:
“What a wonderful experience it has been to sit for a photograph with Simon; a nod to how Arkwright would have sat for Wright all those centuries ago. I am thrilled to have been asked to pose for this exciting project; I always felt that innovation is in the Derbyshire DNA and hope some of that has been exhibited in Pennine’s history. To be picked as one of the modern ‘versions’ of Arkwright and working with Simon Mackney, clearly a master in his field of photography, has been a great pleasure.”
Robert Kirkland comments:
“I was very pleased to be asked to be part of this exciting project celebrating our region’s industrial past –even more so when I realised the photographer overseeing the work was someone I helped gain funding from The Princes Trust to set himself up in the industry over 15 years ago. I am delighted to see what progress Simon has made; Mackney Photography is now a state of art studio in a historic mills setting, with a large team working for Simon and producing excellent work. I am looking forward to seeing what the final outcome of our time spent together will be – and supporting Simon and the Art Of Industry exhibition at Derby’s Museum and Art Gallery.”
The Art of Industry exhibits at Derby Museum and Art Gallery from 24 March – 17 June. Alongside depictions of Britain’s industrial past, the display will be supplemented with objects from Derbyshire’s industries – tools, machines, the products that they made, and the marketing materials which we associate with them. The Art of Industry will show the evolving relationship that artists have had with the manufacturing heritage that helps define the Midlands and its people.
The project and exhibition form part of The Grand Tour, a cultural journey across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, which returns for its third edition until June 2018, with an exceptional programme of exhibitions at four of the UK’s most distinguished arts institutions: Chatsworth, Nottingham Contemporary, The Harley Gallery at Welbeck and Derby Museums; as well as a range of fringe venues across the region.