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A Painting Returns to its Former Glory

Joseph Wright of Derby (attributed), British, 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.
Joseph Wright of Derby (attributed), British, 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.

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.

Video Credits

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.

Special Thanks

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

Video Production Team

Videography and Editing
J Caldwell, Photographer & Social Media Manager, Nasher Museum

Producer and Videography
Wendy Hower, Director of Engagement & Marketing, Nasher Museum

Transcript Editing
Joyce Huang, Duke Class of 2022

Graphic Design
Rachel Goodwin, Graphic Designer and Web Content Manager, Nasher Museum

Support

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.

Thus exhibition is supported by The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and The Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

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