Joseph Wright

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Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond
Roper Gallery £6.95 | Concessions

‘A cracking show about a fascinating painter’ Richard Dorment The Telegraph>>

‘Wright there: Derby artist’s sojourn in Bath revisited’ Mark Brown The Guardian>>

‘Joseph Wright’s time in Bath was grim but, as an exhibition in the city illustrates, it was also the making of him’ Rachel Cooke The Observer>>

‘Ringing with commendations: Joseph Wright’ Martin Oldman Apollo>>

Joseph Wright ‘of Derby’ (1734-1797) lived and worked in Bath between November 1775 and June 1777. This brief and little-known episode in Wright’s life marked a crossroads in his career, yet it has never been explored in detail. ‘Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond’ will place Wright in the context of the many artists, musicians, writers, business people and scientists living and working in the Georgian spa and present for the first time a comprehensive view of his life and work during those eighteen months. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue will also go ‘beyond’ to examine the effect of his time in Bath and his travels in Italy on Wright’s later work.

“I have taken the Liberty to give this Letter of Introduction to my Friend Mr. Wright of Derby, Who since his Return from Italy is come to Bath, & Designs to settle there.”
Erasmus Darwin, 22 November 1775

Wright came to Bath to paint portraits, hoping to build on the success of Thomas Gainsborough who had recently left for London. The exhibition will include the three remaining portraits that the artist certainly made in Bath, including his painting of the elderly Rev. Thomas Wilson with the young daughter of Catharine Macaulay, the radical historian.

Whilst in Bath Wright worked up landscape studies he had made in Italy, producing spectacular views of Vesuvius in Eruption and the dazzling firework displays of Rome, the highlight of a visit to the artist’s studio in Brock Street. It was whilst in Bath that he first began to explore subjects from sentimental contemporary literature, which in turn have a strong impact on his portrait composition, and the exhibition will include some of his most beautiful depictions of figures alone in the landscape.

We are grateful to Derby Museum, which holds the world’s largest and finest collection of Wright’s work, for its generous loans to this exhibition which will include The Indian Widow, The Alchymist and some beautiful drawings. Other lenders include the National Gallery, Musée du Louvre, Tate, the British Museum, the Walker Art Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The exhibition is sponsored by Lowell Libson Ltd and supported by The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

This exhibition will travel to Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

A STUDY DAY 9am to 6pm

Monday 24 February, 2014

The Holburne Museum will bring together speakers from a variety of disciplines including regional historian Peter Borsay, Joseph Wright expert Stephen Daniels and the conservator Rica Jones to examine in greater depth Wright’s little-known Bath period and its contexts. The morning session will explore the cultural life of Bath in the 1770s through recent historical research and ask whether Wright’s place in this complex and creative society has been misunderstood. In the afternoon the focus will turn to other places: Derbyshire, Liverpool, Italy and the London exhibition galleries, and their influence on the artist’s life and work.

Price: £45 (Concessions £40, Students £15), to include morning coffee, afternoon tea and a ticket for the exhibition.
To Book Tel 01225 388560 or in person at the Museum

Exhibition Related Talks
To book tel 01225 388569

Monday 17 March, 3pm
Ticket £5
‘Brilliant with all colours’ – the Image of Vesuvius
James Hamilton
Joseph Wright was not the only artist to be fascinated by Vesuvius, one of the world’s greatest volcanoes. Dr James Hamilton, biographer of J M W Turner, will examine the impact of the mountain on the visual arts and the evolution of its image from Roman times to today. He was brought up in Derby where he experienced the shock of Joseph Wright’s paintings at an early age. As an art historian at the University of Birmingham, James Hamilton has curated dozens of exhibitions, including Compton Verney’s recent Volcano: from Turner to Warhol.

Wednesday 26 March, 7.30pm
Ticket £10 / £8
Wedgwood and the Enlightenment
A.N.Wilson discusses Josiah Wedgwood’s creative and technological achievement and places it within the context of the Enlightenment. Wedgwood’s colleague Bentley introduced him to the thought of the Encyclopoedists, while his friend Priestley was in the vanguard of chemical research. When he commissioned Stubbs to paint his family, he originally stipulated the very “Wright of Derby”ish subject – the Wedgwood boys conducting a chemical experiment. Wright subsequently painted Mrs Wedgwood as Penelope unravelling her Web. Wedgwood, who became a Fellow of the Royal Society, was always fascinated by ideas as well as by money and much of his neoclassicism stemmed from his political and aesthetic engagement with the unearthing, at Pompeii and Herculaneum, not only of beautiful vases, but a republican civilization which could be reproduced in England.

Monday 14 April, 3pm
Ticket £5
‘Magick Land': the impact of Italy on British landscape artists c.1745-85
Anne Lyles
Joseph Wright’s tour of Italy in 1774-75 inspired a group of remarkable landscape drawings and oils which he made not only on the trip itself but also on his return to England, during his eighteen months in Bath and for many years after. This lecture will cover the wider context of these subjects by examining the impact of the landscape in and around Rome and Naples on other British artists who visited Italy in the period c.1745-85, such as Thomas Jones, William Pars, Francis Towne and John ‘Warwick’ Smith. Former Tate curator Anne Lyles is a leading authority on Constable, Turner and British eighteenth-century landscape.

Exhibition Tour for Blind and Partially Sighted Visitors
Tuesday 11 March 2.30pm-3.30pm
Ticket £2; carers free
Join our Senior Curator Amina Wright for a tour of Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond.

Exhibition Tour for Deaf Visitors
Tuesday 25 March Start time 2.30pm, finish time 3.30pm
Ticket £2; carers free
Join our Senior Curator Amina Wright for a tour of Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond.
Supported by a BSL interpreter

William Herschel led the March of Science and Derby captured it – On 13 March 1781 William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus from the garden of what is now the Herschel Museum of Astonomy in Bath Read more>>


Roper Gallery


Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm
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£6.95 | Concessions