Off the Map: The Provenance of a Painting
September 23, 2021 – February 06, 2022
Off the Map: The Provenance of a Painting is a 14-minute mini documentary about the meticulous conservation and repair of an 18th-century painting attributed to Joseph Wright of Derby. In this video, viewers visit the Durham studio of art conservator Ruth Cox, who shares her experience with this timeworn painting. The camera sweeps across the unrestored painting’s surface which magically returns to its former glory after Ruth’s expert care. Viewers learn about the materials and techniques Ruth used to conserve this picture in such a way that they could be undone without damage.
Portrait of an Artist is the centerpiece of an intimate show in the Incubator Gallery, Off the Map: The Provenance of a Painting, which provides a case study of a single work of art that was bequeathed to the Nasher Museum by Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans. From England to Berlin, New York to Durham, the 18th-century painting has journeyed far and seen numerous owners, auctions houses and exhibitions since its creation 250 years ago.
Joseph Wright of Derby (attributed), Portrait of an Artist, mid–late 18th century. Oil on canvas, 29 1/8 x 24 1/2 inches (74 x 62.2 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Bequest of Mary D.B.T. Semans in memory of her mother, Mary Duke Biddle; 2013.3.1. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.
Restoration photos of Portrait of an Artist by Ruth Cox.
Joseph Wright of Derby, Self-Portrait, c. 1780. Oil on canvas. Collection of the Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Fund, B1997.23.
Mackenzie Becker, Assistant to Ruth Cox
Molly Boarati, Associate Curator, Nasher Museum
Ruth Cox, art conservator
Brad Johnson, Exhibition Designer, Nasher Museum
Marshall N. Price, Chief Curator and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum
Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director, Nasher Museum
Sarah Schroth, Director Emeritus, Nasher Museum
Douglas Vuncannon, AV Specialist, Nasher Museum
Kelly Woolbright, Registrar, Nasher Museum
Videography and Editing
J Caldwell, Photographer & Social Media Manager, Nasher Museum
Producer and Videography
Wendy Hower, Director of Engagement & Marketing, Nasher Museum
Joyce Huang, Duke Class of 2022
Rachel Goodwin, Graphic Designer and Web Content Manager, Nasher Museum
Off the Map: The Provenance of a Painting is organized by Molly Boarati, Associate Curator at the Nasher Museum. Special thanks to David Beaudin, Ruth Cox, Merritt Hampton, Chris Harris, Annika Hossain, Beth Semans Hubbard, Sabrina Hurtado, Mary Trent Jones, Nancy Karrels, Ian Kennedy, Joe Lucas, Mimi O’Brien, James Duke Biddle Trent Semans, Abby Schlesinger, and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University.
This exhibition is supported by The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and The Samuel H. Kress Foundation.