The Triumph of Art

10 October 2020  – 12 December 2020

This exhibition celebrates the restoration of a painting given to The Atkinson in the late 19th century. Due to its poor condition, The Triumph of Art by Nicolas Pierre Loir has not been exhibited in over a century.

The Triumph of Art by Nicolas Pierre Loir was created as an allegory of the arts, a celebration of music, architecture, sculpture, portrait and history painting. The painting looks at the life and times of Jean Baptiste Colbert, a major patron of the arts and a powerful minister who helped Louis XIV rule over France in the 1600s.

An exhibition contextualizing the newly restored painting has been created from The Atkinson’s permanent collection, reflecting the art forms portrayed in The Triumph of Art. Key works on display include sculptures by Elisabeth Frink and Henry Moore, and paintings by LS Lowry and Charles Ginner.

Nicolas-Pierre Loir (1624 – 1679), was a French painter and engraver. Loir benefitted from the support given to French artists by Louis XIV and by his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert. As well as painting for the King and the aristocracy, Loir painted numerous altarpieces and religious paintings. He also designed tapestries at the Gobelins factory in Paris, which was bought and supervised by Colbert. Loir’s work can be found in many of the world’s major galleries from the Louvre to the Hermitage. However, The Triumph of Art is the only major work by Loir in a British collection.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) came from a family of merchant bankers. Despite not belonging to the nobility, by the mid-1660s he became the most powerful of Louis XIV’s ministers. In the 19th century the novelist Alexandre Dumas portrayed him as a ruthless, cold-blooded politician but also as a visionary and patriot. He was known as ‘Le Nord’ because of his chilly demeanour. Colbert played a crucial role in drafting the notorious ‘Code noir’ governing the conditions of slavery in France’s colonies.

Dr Onyeka Nubia has been invited by The Atkinson to comment on The Triumph of Art by Nicolas Pierre Loir and the patron, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, and his authorship of the ‘code noir’. Dr Nubia is a pioneering and internationally recognised historian, writer and presenter who is reinventing our perceptions of the Renaissance, British history, Black Studies and intersectionalism. Join online for a pre-recorded lecture from Dr Nubia, Thursday 15 October, 7pm.

The exhibition is presented with thanks to the Chateau de Sceaux for funding the restoration of the painting and The Art Society Southport for funding a new picture frame.

Online exhibition

View The Triumph of Art as an online exhibition here.


Caption: The Triumph of Art, Nicolas Pierre Loir (1624–1679). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.


Further information:
  • Restricted opening times Monday – Saturday, 11.00 am – 4.00 pm; closed Sundays and bank Holidays
  • Free admission
  • Location:  The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport PR8 1DB
  • Getting there: By Road: from the South take the M6 to exit 26; the M58 will take you to Ormskirk and then take the A570 to Southport; from the North follow the A59 from Preston (exit 31 from the M6) and then follow the signs to Southport. By Train: Southport station is just three minutes walk from the venue. Northern Rail operates regular services to Southport from Manchester Airport, Manchester (Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria stations), Bolton and Wigan; By Bus: Merseytravel operate a number of bus services to and from Southport
  • Contact 01704 533333