Sunday, 1 June 2014

Joseph Wright of Derby - part 1




1753-54c Self Portrait in Van Dyck Costume ( aged about twenty ) 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

Joseph Wright (1734 – 1797) styled Joseph Wright of Derby. Was an English landscape and portrait painter. He has been acclaimed as “the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution”. Wright is noted for his use of Chiaroscuro effect, which emphasises the contrast of light and dark, and for his paintings of candle-lit subjects. His paintings of the birth of science out of alchemy, often based on meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of very influential scientists and industrialists living in the English Midlands, are a significant record of the struggle of science against religious values in the period known as the Age of Enlightenment.

Joseph Wright (1734 – 1797) was born in Irongate, Derby in 1734. In 1751 Wright went to London and studied for two years under Thomas Hudson, the master of Joshua Reynolds. After painting portraits for a while in Derby, Wright again worked as an assistant to Hudson for fifteen months. In 1753 he returned and settled in Derby and varied his work in portraiture with subjects using strong chiaroscuro under artificial light, and by landscape painting. Wright spent a productive period between 1768 – 1771 painting portraits of prominent figures in Liverpool.

In 1773 Wright married Ann (aka Hannah) Swift, the daughter of a lead-miner. They had six children, three of whom died in infancy. In the same year Wright and his pregnant wife travelled by sea to Livorno in Italy, arriving in February 1774. He subsequently spent a great deal of time in Naples. On his return from Italy he established himself in the city of Bath in Somerset as a portrait painter, but meeting little encouragement he returned to Derby in 1777, where he spent the rest of his life.

Wright was a frequent contributor to the exhibitions of the Society of Artists, and to the Royal Academy, of which he was elected an associate in 1781, and a full member in 1784. However, he declined the latter honour on account of a slight he believed he had received, and severed his connection with the Academy, though he continued to exhibit from 1783 until 1794.

Wright had close contact with pioneering industrialists of the Midlands. Two of his most important patrons were Josiah Wedgwood, credited with the industrialization of pottery manufacture, and Richard Arkwright, regarded as the creator of the factory system in the cotton industry. Wright also had connections with Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin), who lived in Derby, and other members of the Lunar Society, which brought together leading industrialists, scientists and philosophers, inspiring some of Wright’s works.

Wright became increasingly asthmatic and nervous about the house, and for these complaints he was treated by his friend Dr. Erasmus Darwin. Ann Wright died in 1790. Joseph Wright died in August 1797 at his new home at No. 28 Queen Street, Derby, where he had spent his final months with his two daughters.

This is part 1 of a 5 - part post on the works of Joseph Wright:


1750 Boy with Plumed Hat and Greyhound 
charcoal and stumping 33.6 x 23.5 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1751-57c Study of an Unknown Man ( attributed to ) 
chalk on paper 45.6 x 28 cm 
Tate, London

1753c Richard Wright, Surgeon of Derby

Richard Wright, the sitter in this portrait, was the brother of Joseph Wright. At the time this was painted, Richard was 23 and Joseph was 19 years old.

1753c Richard Wright ( 1730–1814 ), Surgeon of Derby 
oil on canvas 76.8 x 63.1 cm 
Wellcome Library, London

1755 Anne Bateman, Later Mrs John Gisborne 
oil on canvas 77 x 65 cm 
Private Collection

1755-65 Portrait of a Gentleman 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm 
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1760 William Pigot ( 1729–1782 ) 
oil on canvas 127 x 102 cm 
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, UK

1760 Elizabeth Pigot ( 1726–1766 ) 
oil on canvas 127 x 102 cm 
Doncaster Museum Service, UK

1760 Lawrence Monck 
oil on canvas 126.9 x 102.5 cm 
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, UK

1760 Mrs Lawrence Monck 
oil on canvas 127.5 x 101.7 cm 
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, UK

1760 Portrait of Miss Jane Monck 
oil on canvas 125.7 x 101.3 cm 
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, UK

1760c Portrait of a Girl ( Jane Monck, d.1794 ) 
oil on canvas 40.6 x 33 cm 
 Leeds Museums and Galleries, UK

1760 William Brooke 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, UK

1760-62c Girl Reading a Letter by Candlelight, With a Young Man Peering over her Shoulder 
oil on canvas 88.9 x 69.8 cm 
Private Collection

1760c Anne or Molly Cracroft 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Private Collection

1760c Harvey Wilmot 
oil on canvas 50.8 x 40.6 cm 
Private Collection

1760c Simon Wilmot 
oil on canvas 50.8 x 40.6 cm 
Private Collection

1760c Portrait of a Gentleman 
oil on canvas 76.5 x 63.9 cm 
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

1760c Portrait of a Lady 
oil on canvas 77.5 x 64.1 cm 
St Louis art Museum, St Louis, MO

1760c Richard Lovett ( attributed to ) 
oil on canvas 76 x 62.3 cm 
Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford, UK

early 1760s Millicent Mundy, Mrs. French 
oil on canvas 124.5 x 98 cm

1761-62c Mrs Andrew Lindington 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 62.8 cm 
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA

1762-63 Anne Borrow 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1762-63c Edward Becher Leacroft 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Stanford University Museum and Art Gallery, Stanford, CA

1762-63c Francis Noel Clarke Mundy 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Private Collection

1762-63c Harry Peckham 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Private Collection

1762-63c Mr and Mrs William Chase 
oil on canvas 138.4 x 190.5 cm 
Private Collection

1762-63c Mrs Wilmot in Riding Dress 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Private Collection

1762-63c Nicholas Heath 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Private Collection

1762-63c Thomas Borrow ( 1709–1786 ) 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1762-64c Samuel Rastall 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.6 cm 
Private Collection

1762-64c William Rastall 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.6 cm 
Private Collection

1762-65 Thomas Bennett 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1763c Portrait of Miss Frances Warren 
oil on canvas 124.5 x 99 cm 
Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO

1764 James and Mary Shuttleworth with One of Their Daughters 
oil on canvas 142.2 x 182.9 cm 
Private Collection

1764 The Honourable Richard Fitzwilliam, Seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion 
oil on canvas 74.9 x 62.2 cm 
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

1764c The Honourable John Grey ( 1743–1802 ), as a Gentleman Commoner of Cambridge University 
oil on canvas 73.5 x 61 cm 
National Trust, Dunham Massey, Altrincham, UK

1765 Peter Perez Burdett and His First Wife Hannah 
oil on canvas 145 x 205 cm 
Narodni Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic

1765 Three Persons Viewing The Gladiator by Candlelight 
oil on canvas 101.6 x 121.9 cm 
Private Collection

1769 William Paether after Joseph Wright "Three Persons Viewing The Gladiator by Candlelight" 
mezzotint on off-white laid paper 48.2 x 55.5 cm ( plate ) 
Art Institute of Chicago, IL

1765c Mary Bold, Mrs Thomas Hunt III 
oil on canvas 76 x 63.5 cm 
The National Trust, UK

1765c Self-Portrait black and white chalks on paper laid on canvas 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1766 Mrs Robert Gwillym 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO

1766 Robert Vernon Atherton Gwillym 
oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm 
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO

1766-68c Cornet Sir George Cooke 
oil on canvas 76.7 x 63.8 cm 
Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO

1766c A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery
A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1766c) shows an early mechanism for demonstrating the movement of the planets around the sun. The Scottish scientist James Ferguson (1710 – 76) undertook a series of lectures in Derby in July 1762 based on his book “Lectures on Select Subjects in Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Optics & c.” (1760). To illustrate his lectures, Ferguson used various machines, models and instruments. Wright possibly attended these talks, especially as tickets were available from John Whitehurst, Wright’s close neighbour, a clockmaker and a scientist.

1766c A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery 
oil on canvas 147 x 203 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1768 William Pether "A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery" 
mezzotint 48.8 x 59.2 cm 
The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

1767-70c A Young Girl Reading a Letter, with an Old Man Reading over Her Shoulder 
oil on canvas 91.5 x 71.2 cm 
Private Collection

1767-70c Self-Portrait in a Black Feathered Hat 
charcoal heightened with white chalk on paper 53.3 x 36.8 cm 
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK

1767-70c Two Boys Fighting over a Bladder 
oil on canvas 91.5 x 71.2 cm 
Private Collection

1767c Portrait of a Man, Known as the "Indian Captain" 
oil on canvas 229.2 x 138.4 cm 
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1768 An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) shows people gathered round observing an early experiment into the nature of air and its ability to support life. A travelling scientist is shown demonstrating the formation of a vacuum by withdrawing air from a flask containing a white cockatoo, though common birds like sparrows would normally have been used. Air pumps were developed in the 17th century and were relatively familiar by Wright’s day.

1768 An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump 
oil on canvas 183 x 244 cm 
The National Gallery, London

Detail: 1768 An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

Detail: 1768 An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

Detail: 1768 An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump

1769 Valentine Green after Joseph Wright "An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump" 
mezzotint 48.3 x 58.6 cm 
The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

1768 Richard Gildart 
oil on canvas 125 x 100 cm 
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK

1768 Study of a Young Girl in a Turban and Frilled Collar 
black and white chalks with stumping on paper 43.8 x 29.2 cm 
Private Collection

1768-70c Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight 
oil on canvas 90.8 x 72.4 cm 
Private Collection

1781 Thomas Boswel Watson after Joseph Wright "Miss Kitty Dressing" 
mezzotint on ivory laid paper 43.8 x 33.3 cm ( image ) 
Five Colleges Museums Collections Database, MA

1768c Portrait of a Man 
chalks on paper 36.8 x 28.6 cm 
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

1768c Study of a Young Girl with Feathers in Her Hair 
black and white chalks on paper laid on canvas 43.1 x 29.1 cm 
Private Collection

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for pulling all this together. Do you think Wright was unintentionally caricaturing his subjects? These are great social history - but are they flattering portraits?

    ReplyDelete