Joseph Wright of Derby and his Visit to Italy 1773 – 1775

1734 - 1797 (c.)

Image: Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), Eruption of Mount Vesuvius (1774). Gouache on paper.

Image from: Derby Museum & Art Gallery

Text: Malcolm Dick


Joseph Wright left for Italy in 1773. Over the next two years he travelled throughout the country, observing, drawing and writing letters to his family and friends in England. Wright was interested in the artistic and architectural remains of ancient Rome and the Renaissance. He recorded his observations in pen and ink and chalk drawings, but more importantly in the long term, he drew the places he visited. They included Rome itself and Italian landscapes and coastal scenes, particularly around Naples. Some of his most dramatic images included his views of Mount Vesuvius, including the volcanic eruption which heads this exhibition.

Wright’s Italian experience helped him to develop as an artist. This exhibition presents and explores a selection of images he created during his time in the country and paintings of Italian landscapes he created after his return to England.

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3735-0Joseph Wright of Derby and his Visit to Italy 1773 – 1775 3723-0Joseph Wright’s Journey to Italy 3744-0Study of Fragment of a Classical Frieze, Rome (1774) 3747-0Belisarius receiving Alms (1775) 3745-0Girandola with St Peter’s Rome (1774/5) 3746-0Fire in Rome (1774) 3734-0A Letter from the Artist in Rome, including Sketches of the Castel Sant’ Angelo and Saint Peter’s (1774) 4997-0Eruption of Mount Vesuvius (1774) 3721-0Virgil’s Tomb (1782) 3748-0A View of Tivoli (c1783-86) 3719-0Bridge through a Cavern, Moonlight (1791)
Sources and Further Reading

Daniels, Stephen, Joseph Wright (London, Tate Gallery, 1999).
Derby Art Gallery, Joseph Wright of Derby (Derby Museums & Art Gallery, 1979), Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Joseph Wright of Derby Information Pack (Derby 2002).
Fraser, David. “Joseph Wright of Derby and the Lunar Society”, in Egerton, Judy, Wright of Derby (London, 1990).
Klingender F D, Art and the Industrial Revolution, (London, Paladin, 1972).
Wallis, Jane, Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797 (Derby, Derby Museum & Art Gallery,1997).

The largest collection of Joseph Wright’s paintings is held by Derby Museum and Art Gallery.