S. Anselm’s children in Years 3 to 6 have been taking part in the National Gallery’s ‘Take One Picture’ competition, throughout their Lent Term. The children have been studying the famous painting called ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ by Joseph Wright of Derby, which he painted in 1768.
With this painting as their central stimulus, the children have explored different sections of the picture linked to all aspects of the curriculum – from creative writing to science and art – leading them to create imaginative and creative pieces of work.
The children were particularly interested to explore the responses on the faces of each of the people in the painting and compare them to film footage of their own individual responses during the visit of a local veterinary surgeon to school, during a practical demonstration of lung function. Among the group, responses ranged from complete fascination and awe to revulsion, dismay and even apathy – just as the experiment in the painting elicited.
The project culminated in an exhibition to be held in The Gothic Warehouse in Cromford Mill. Parents and families were invited to attend the preview with presentations from the children who were excited to share their experiences and work.
With 26 different exhibits from sculptures based upon the trapped bird in the air pump to a shadow puppet animation exploring the stories to be found in different sections of the painting and from poetry to a demonstration of how air is moved through the lungs, visitors were treated to a diverse range of exciting works reflecting the richness and intrigue of the Joseph Wright’s masterpiece.
Cromford Mill is a very apt venue for the exhibition. Its creator, and pioneer of the Industrial Revolution, Sir Richard Arkwright, belonged to a group called The Lunar Society of which his contemporary, Joseph Wright was also a member. The Lunar Society’s members met to discuss new ideas and drive change in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’.
The children’s work will be submitted to the National Gallery’s ‘Take One Picture’ competition in October.