"The collection is a wonderful reminder of Derby's past glories, and is a fascinating record of change within the town from the beginning of the industrial age to the middle of the last century ... Whilst some of the views are instantly recognisable today, other aspects have vanished without trace." Thus write the authors of this fine and well-presented volume in their introduction. Sarah Allard is Keeper of Fine Art at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery, and Nicola Rippon is an author and filmmaker.
But who is Alfred Goodey? Or rather, who was Alfred Goodey? He died in 1945. He was a collector of many artistic works of the city, and indeed commissioned many of the pictures in his collection. He donated them to the city's museum where they have been cared for ever since. In this volume, 103 pictures are reproduced in full colour, and they date from the early eighteenth century, but most are from the period 1840-1930. Alfred Keene painted thirty-eight of the 103, and S H Parkins eleven.
The order of the pictures assumes a rough geographical format, commencing with distant views of the town, then looking at the riverside, before entering the Market Square and so on. A map would have been of use, pinpointing the sites and page numbers of the paintings for quick reference. But whenever I had lost my geographical bearings, all I needed to do in most paintings was to look for the tower of All Saints.
There are some distinctive omissions in the subject-matter. A few pictures of Derby's industrial heritage appear only at the end of the book, and there is surprisingly only one featuring a train. But there is none of Rolls Royce or of the porcelain works. The Silk Mill has three paintings, but not alas the wonderful one from the east that I recently saw hanging on the walls of the city's museum and art gallery.
There could have been much more historical and topographical information provided in this book. (On pages without any reproductions, there is much white space that could have been filled.) For instance, I wanted to know what were the names of the hamlet and bridge in H L Pratt's `Derby from Nottingham Road' of c1860. Despite some biographical information being provided about some of the artists, there were questions arising in my mind on this subject too. Who, for example, was Louise Rayner who painted the famous `Irongate' scene? When did she paint it?
But I grumble, when I should rather effuse. It is a lovely book. I used to live in Derby, and this book allowed me to return to the scenes of some of its everyday history. But I think my favourite in this beautiful book is not so everyday at all; it is that of `Castlefield House' by an artist unknown, painted at a time of apparent Arcadian beauty in the early eighteenth century.
Finally, there is no index, which IS really quite inexcusable.