Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has loaned its portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright to Cromford Mills Visitor Gateway for five years.
Moving the likeness of the father of the industrial revolution is no minor feat. They don’t make them like they used to; the gilded frame is made from solid wood. A team of six people was needed to shift this 2.4 x 1.5m oil painting (and one to photograph them doing it).
Large in both stature and portrayal, Arkwight has returned to Cromford, where he established one of his revolutionary water-powered cotton mills in 1771. Not to be confused with Joseph Wright’s painting, this version is attributed to John Holland in around 1790. Gifted to Buxton Museum in 2010 by English Sewing Thread Ltd. in Belper, Derbyshire, the portrait has been an interesting challenge to store and display.
Freed from the shadows of Buxton Museum’s stores, visitors to Cromford will now be able to look upon the imposing figure of Arkwright. It is clear that the man did not want us to forget him or his contribution to the modern world. He needn’t have worried. The Derwent Valley and its mills were declared a World Heritage site in 2001 by UNESCO so they can provide a tangible sense of how the UK once led the world in science and industry.
For more information about how Buxton Museum and other Derbyshire museums have developed their collections from the Age of Enlightenment, visit our project blog.