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The Goodey Collection

A portrait of Alfred E. Goodey
Alfred E. Goodey - the man responsible for the creation of the Goodey Collection

Though many museums, and the cities they reside in, can claim to own some fairly impressive collections of local paintings from local artists, there's not many cities that can stand in comparison to the collections of local paintings safeguarded by the Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Of course many people will be aware of the Joseph Wright Collection that is housed in the Museum and Art Gallery - the artist is internationally renowned after all - but the very same organisation safeguards another wondrous collection of paintings that is, in my opinion, even better - the Goodey Collection.

Now let me qualify what I mean by "even better".

I'm not for one second trying to diminish the work of Joseph Wright - he was a truly incredible artist - but for me his works of art are more aimed at art purists. I'm also not demeaning art purists either by the way - if you are one then good for you - but the Goodey Collection resonates with something much more valuable to me - the everyday people.

Described by the art historian F.D. Klingender as ‘the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution’, Joseph Wright will always have a rightful place in the pantheon of Derby artists but the Goodey Collection - 512 pieces of art of Derby in times gone by - can evoke a much more passionate response from the average Derby citizen - and trust me the reactions on our social media prove this to be the case.

St. Mary's Bridge, Derby in 1923 by William Edwin Mosley
St. Mary's Bridge, Derby in 1923 by William Edwin Mosley - part of the Goodey Collection.

But who was the 'Goodey' who created this wonderful collection? He was a gentleman called Alfred E. Goodey.

Alfred was born in 1878 to William Henry Goodey and Rhoda Goodey and, from an early age, showed an interest in both the creation and collection of works of art. Showing up in the 1881 census as living at Leslie Cottage, Bass Street, Derby, it is rumoured that he began collecting artworks from 1886 onwards.

Educated privately at Whitworth School, he then went on to attend the Derby School of Art and, in addition to his interest in art, counted natural history, walking in Derbyshire and amateur Shakespearean acting amongst his pursuits. It was his interest in art, however, that led him to the presidency of the Derby Sketching Club and honed in him a shrewd eye for paintings that would eventually help him record Derby’s history.

The word ‘collecting’ doesn’t do justice to how Alfred acquired many of the paintings he would ultimately own – he would often commission works from local artists – and amongst the paintings he ultimately brought into his collection were those of renowned Derby artists such as Ernest Townsend and Alfred John Keene – both of whose works have been featured in Derby Uncovered.

Described as a man about town in plus fours and a full beard and moustache, Alfred was often to be found in the Tudor Room of the Bell Inn on Sadler Gate with friends, which considering he was also a founder member of the Derby Shakespeare Society and a member of the Derbyshire Footpaths Preservation Society, was no small crowd.

The Old Silk Mill in 1895 by A. J. Keene - part of the Goodey Collection
The Old Silk Mill in 1895 by A. J. Keene - part of the Goodey Collection

Goodey was particularly keen on commissioning views of buildings and streets that were under the imminent threat of destruction and, as such, his collection became what is now an invaluable record of Derby as it existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

By 1936 the collection numbered 512 paintings and, in a remarkably generous gesture that countless Derby citizens have benefited from ever since, he donated them to the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, which still safeguards the collection to this day.

The Goodey Collection – as it has come to be known – has very little in terms of rivals when it comes to visually charting the changing history of a city. Some of the views we see within the works of art are instantly recognisable, some are very much not, but all of them, both individually and collectively, create a gift to our city that is immeasurable in value.

As for more examples of some of the artwork in the Goodey Collection, every single print from our Bygone Derby A4 Prints range comes from that very same collection. You can find those prints here:

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