Joseph Wright of Derby: Art, the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution

1734 - 1797 (c.)

Image: Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), Self Portrait in a Black Feathered Hat(c1767-1770). Oil on canvas.


Joseph Wright was the most significant artist of the English Midlands during the late eighteenth century. He painted portraits, landscapes and interiors and was probably the most perceptive painter of industrial and scientific subjects of his time. He was a close friend of two members of the Lunar Society, the geologist and engineer, John Whitehurst and the doctor, scientist and poet Erasmus Darwin. He painted their portraits and those of the industrialists Richard Arkwright and Jedediah Strutt. Four oil paintings and one sketch are explored in this exhibition.

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Image courtesy of: Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Text by: Olga Baird (nos. 1-4) and Malcolm Dick (no 5)

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5230-0Joseph Wright of Derby: Art, the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution 3715-0A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1764-1766) 4216-0An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump (Exhibited 1768) 3716-0The Alchymist in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone (Exhibited 1771) 3755-0The Blacksmith’s Shop (1771) 3743-0Interior of a Glass House no. 1 (c. 1770-1772)
Sources and Further Reading

The largest collection of Joseph Wright’s paintings is located in Derby Museum & Art Gallery.

Daniels, Stephen, Joseph Wright (London, Tate Gallery, 1999).
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Joseph Wright of Derby Information Pack
Fraser, David, Joseph Wright of Derby (Derby Museum and Art Gallery, 1979).
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 (1972).
“Light and Enlightenment in J.Wright of Derby’s ‘The Alchymist”.
Nicholson, Benedict, Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, vols I and II, (1968).
Richie, Stefka, “In Awe of Nature: Samuel Johnson and Joseph Wright of Derby”, in BMInsight, Issue 5, 2003, P.45-56.
Shea, William R (ed), “Science and the Visual Image in the Enlightenment”, European Studies in Science History and the Arts, IV. 2000.
Uglow, J, The Lunar Men (2002.
Wallis, Jane, Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734-1797 (Derby,1997).