Joseph Wright of Derby painted this imposing portrait of the celebrated cotton manufacturer and inventor in circa 1787 when he had become well established as a leading figure in Derby. From 1769 until 1782 Strutt had been in partnership with Richard Arkwright whose famous portrait is one of Wright’s greatest masterpieces and is on loan to Derby Art Gallery. Both Strutt and Arkwright were successful self made men and were characters with whom Wright felt particular affinity
Sir Richard Arkwright was born in 1732. A former peruke maker, he went on to become a pioneer of the Industrial Revolution through his inventions of cotton spinning machinery and manufacture. Arkwright began building in Cromford in August 1771 and created the world’s first successful water powered cotton spinning mill; a vital step towards full scale factory production.