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 UK

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 UK

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 TX

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 Private 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 D.C.

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) 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 UK

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 and stump 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?

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