Sunday, October 9, 2011

Joseph Wright of Derby - A Classical Romantic in the Age of the Industrial Revolution

Joseph Wright of Derby, Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight, 1765
(Private Collection)

Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery, 1766
(Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, England)

Joseph Wright of Derby, Experiment with an Air Pump, 1768
(National Gallery, London)

Joseph Wright of Derby is an 18th century artist that really stands out due to his unusual depictions of dark interiors with a hidden light source a little reminiscent of Carvaggio and De La Tour, two artist I find incredibly fascinating.

An avid believer in the enlightenment, he was part of an intellectual group, the Lunar society, who believed in the unity of science, philosophy and art.  They got their name from their monthly meetings being held on the first Monday before a full moon.

Georges de La Tour, The Newborn, 1645
(Musee des Beaux-Arts, Rennes)
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,
The conversion of St. Paul, 1601
(Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome)

What I find worthy of observing here is that Derby painted these works, around the same time that in France Fragonard  was showing The Swing, 1767, Jean-Baptiste Greuze was showing, Septimius Severus and Caracalla, 1769 and in London, Benjamin West was displaying Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the ashes of Germanicus, 1768, at the Royal Academy.

Fragonard, The Swing, 1767
(Wallace Collection, London)
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Septimius Severus and Caracalla, 1769
(Musee du Louvre)
Benjamin West, Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus, 1768
(Yale Univeersity Art Gallery)

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