An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump is a 1768 oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby. It is one of a number of candlelit scenes that Wright painted during the 1760s. The picture has been owned by the National Gallery in London since 1863 and is regarded as a masterpiece of British art.
About An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump in brief
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump is a 1768 oil-on-canvas painting by Joseph Wright of Derby. It is one of a number of candlelit scenes that Wright painted during the 1760s. The picture has been owned by the National Gallery in London since 1863 and is regarded as a masterpiece of British art. The painting depicts a natural philosopher, a forerunner of the modern scientist, recreating one of Robert Boyle’s air pump experiments, in which a bird is deprived of air. The group exhibits a variety of reactions, but for most of the audience scientific curiosity overcomes concern for the bird. By the time Wright painted his picture in 1768, air pumps were a relatively commonplace scientific instrument, and natural philosophy was the centrepiece of their experiments. The setting in both the painting and the setting of the well-off setting suggested the picture was full of humanity in the least degree of humanity, according to James Ferguson FRS, a Scottish astronomer and probable acquaintance of Joseph Wright. FRS noted that a small-filled glass bladder with a small creature inside was often used in the demonstration, as using a living creature was “too shocking to every spectator who has ever seen it” The painting departed from convention of the time by depicting a scientific subject in the reverential manner formerly reserved for scenes of historical or religious significance. Wright was intimately involved in depicting the Industrial Revolution and the scientific advances of the Enlightenment, and his paintings were recognized as exceptional by his contemporaries, but his provincial status and choice of subjects meant the style was never widely imitated.
The National Gallery has owned the painting since 1863, and it is considered to be one of the finest examples of oil painting in the history of the art form. It has been on display at the British National Gallery, London, since 1973, and is on display in the National Museum of Modern Art, New York, as well as the Museum of Science and Industry, Paris, and the British Museum, among other places. The air pump was invented by Otto von Guericke in 1650, though its high cost deterred most contemporary scientists from constructing the apparatus. Boyle’s pump, which was largely designed to Boyle’s specifications and constructed by Robert Hooke, was complicated, temperamental, and problematic to operate. Despite the operational and maintenance obstacles, construction of the pump enabled Boyle to conduct a great many experiments on the properties of air, which he later detailed in his New Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, Touching the Spring of the Air, and its Effects,. In the book, he described in great detail 43 experiments he conducted, on occasion assisted by Hooke. Boyle conducted numerous trials during which he placed a large variety of different creatures, including birds, mice, eels, snails and flies, and studied their reactions as the air was removed. In this attempt to discover something \”about the account upon which Respiration is so necessary to the Animals, that Nature hath furnish’d with Lungs\”, Boyle tested the effects of air on combustion, magnetism, sound, and barometers.