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BBC Documentaries: Season 2006

2006x34 Bird in the Air Pump

  • 2006-06-21T21:00:00+01:00 on BBC
  • 60 mins
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Documentary, Special Interest

Ben Woolley tells the story of a neglected masterpiece: Joseph Wright of Derby's An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump. Until recently, Wright was dismissed by many art critics as a minor provincial but Wright was in fact a virtuoso painter whose scientific paintings give a unique insight into the Enlightenment in Britain.

Ben Woolley's deconstruction of this epic painting takes him from Wright's birthplace in Derby to East Germany, where he witnesses a reconstruction of the famous Magdeburg hemispheres experiment. He visits London's Royal Society and uncovers the strange history of animal experimentation in the 18th century.