The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has been awarded a significant grant to support the acquisition of its first painting to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition.
The £50,000 used to acquire ‘Am Not I A Man and a Brother’, a painting dating from around 1800, is the result of a joint funding effort, made possible through a generous grant award by Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.
The painting’s dominant motif is that of an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and set against the backdrop of a Caribbean sugar plantation. It is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 1787, and is considered to be one of the first instances of a logo designed for a political cause, and used famously by the potter Josiah Wedgwood.
A significant acquisition for the UK, it is only the second known painting to exist featuring this motif – the only other being ‘The Kneeling Slave’ at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.
Stephen Carl-Lokko, Curator, International Slavery Museum said:
“This acquisition represents the first painting ever to be acquired by National Museums Liverpool to depict the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition and we are very pleased to add it to our collection.
“Resistance is a key part of the history we bring to life in the International Slavery Museum and abolition is a very important part of this wider narrative.
“The painting is a remarkable surviving product of the early phase of the British movement to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade during the 18th and 19th century.”
Following restoration and cleaning work to be carried out on the painting, it will go on display in the International Slavery Museum towards the end of 2018.
The painting was in a private collection previously.
Stephen Deuchar, Director, Art Fund said:
“We are proud to be able to support the International Slavery Museum in acquiring this fascinating version of an iconic image. It will undoubtedly enrich the museum’s narrative around abolition and its important place in British history.”
The painting is another acquisition the International Slavery Museum has announced under the Transatlantic and Contemporary Slavery Collecting Project, part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme. Previous announcements under this project have included the acquisition of, a copper engraving by the famous British caricaturist James Gillray and the first example of an account by a female anti-slavery campaigner, into the Museum’s collection.
Am Not I a Man and a Brother is one of several iconic paintings relating to all aspects of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, that are now part of the collection at National Museums Liverpool, including The Hunted Slaves by Richard Ansdell and The Black Boy by William Windus, both on display at the International Slavery Museum and a 1768 portrait of Liverpool merchant Richard Gildart by Joseph Wright of Derby at the Walker Art Gallery.
The first painting to depict the theme of abolition at the International Slavery Museum, Am Not I a Man and a Brother is also part of a wider collection of objects and documents exploring abolition, including a porcelain sugar bowl from 1820-30 inscribed 'East India Sugar. The produce of Free Labour' and a 1793 edition of the autobiography of the famous Black anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano.
The International Slavery Museum highlights the international importance of enslavement and slavery, both in a historic and modern context. Working in partnership with other organisations with a focus on freedom and enslavement, the Museum provides opportunities for greater awareness and understanding of the legacies of enslavement today.
To learn more about Collecting Cultures, please visit our website or contact us at www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/collectingcultures
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International Slavery Museum
The International Slavery Museum opened in August 2007. It is situated on the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum at the Albert Dock. It is the only national museum in the world to cover transatlantic slavery and its legacies as well as modern forms of slavery and enslavement. It is also an international hub for resources on human rights issues and campaigning.
About National Museums Liverpool
National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract around 3 million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. National Museums Liverpool is regulated by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Museums and galleries regulated by DCMS are exempt charities under Schedule 3 of the Charities Act 2011. Registered Office: World Museum, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EN. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
About Art Fund
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 139,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 320 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by The Hepworth Wakefield in 2017) and a range of digital platforms.
Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at www.artfund.org
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 36,000 projects with more than £6bn across the UK. www.hlf.org.uk.