Family 'never dreamed' that Derby artist's works would be sold
A DESCENDANT of Joseph Wright whose relatives bequeathed a dozen of the famous painter's oils to the city said he would be "horrified" to see them sold off.
Alan Wright Bemrose is a fifth generation descendant of Wright of Derby and still recalls walking through the corridors of The Cedars – the family home – and seeing the Orrery hanging.
His family has bequeathed around 12 of Wright's oil paintings to the city council.
Mr Wright Bemrose said he was shocked by recent reports that the council was reviewing the Wright collection.
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"There is nothing in the bequests to say the paintings had to be kept in the council's possession because, of course, at the time my family would never have dreamed that the council would sell them off," he said.
"But there is no doubt in my mind at all that my family intended these paintings to stay in the city's possessions and I would be horrified if that were not the case."
Council leader Paul Bayliss said he needed to make all the city's assets "sweat" and if they could not work for the city, all from buildings to paintings would be under review.
The council needs to save £68 million during the coming three years and the city's art collection was valued by Sotheby's at £64 million.
Mr Wright Bemrose said: "It is wrong to think selling paintings will solve the finances. The money will be one off but the paintings will be lost forever."
A Derby Telegraph survey found that 53% of people asked in Derby did not know who the famous artist was, leading to questions about what the council was doing to promote the famous Derby son and make the paintings work for the city.
But Mr Wright Bemrose said: "I don't think that means that the paintings aren't of value to the city. What is important to is to make sure they are there for people who care or want to find out more."
Mr Bayliss said: "My view on this is that we have to set the council budget ensuring all our assets, no matter how they were acquired, work hard for the city of Derby. We have entrusted the new Museum Trust to do just that in respect of the Joseph Wrights. I am looking forward to the results of its endeavours."
The new Derby Museums Trust is working to show how the paintings can work to raise the city's profile and revealed its plans for a blockbuster international tour of the city's world-class collection.
It will see the 35 Wright oil paintings – including his most well-known, The Orrery – travel to London, Europe and North America.
Mr Wright Bemrose has given a ringing endorsement those plans.
He said: "I have been hugely reassured by the plans. I'm delighted, absolutely delighted about the idea the paintings could go on an international tour."
Mr Wright Bemrose, who moved from Derbyshire to Norfolk 10 years ago, admitted he took his great-great-great-great-grandfather's oils for granted when he was younger.
"I know growing up when in The Cedars there were enormous paintings of the Orrery and all that sort of thing that I walked past every day," he said.
"Of course, as a child you don't think about the paintings, you take them for granted.
"But they are magnificent and I would hate to think of them not being there for the people of Derby."
He still has some Wright paintings as well as a Smith of Derby clock and became concerned when he heard suggestions the council was considering selling off some of the paintings.
"I think the attention has been brought on to Joseph Wright at the moment with the articles that have been done and the work the council is doing.
"That will fade and then it will come back again. That is what happens.
"I just hope that throughout the years, the paintings will remain there for the people of Derby to enjoy."