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The Great British art tour: Stirling Smith museum’s Pipe of Freedom

In the first of a new series, we’re bringing the art to you while Britain’s public art collections are closed. In partnership with Art UK we will each

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In the first of a new series, we’re bringing the art to you while Britain’s public art collections are closed. In partnership with Art UK we will each day be exploring highlights and hidden gems from across the country. Today’s pick: a celebration of emancipation in an image too risky for the Royal Academy

The Pipe of Freedom was painted in 1869 by Thomas Stuart Smith, the artist and founder of the gallery in which it hangs today, the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, in central Scotland.

The painting celebrates the abolition of slavery in the US and depicts a formerly enslaved man as independent and free. The painting – considered radical at the time – is one of three portraits of black men by Smith, who painted them not as marginal figures but as the main subject occupying the centre of the canvas.

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