Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond

The Holburne Museum
Great Pulteney Street
Bath, England
25 January 2014 - 5 May 2014.

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.

Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c. 1776-80
Oil on canvas, 122 x 176.4 cm © Tate, London 2013

"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:

Joseph Wright, The Rev. Dr. Thomas Wilson and his adopted Daughter Miss Catherine Sophia Macaulay, 1776 (Chawton House Library)

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.

The Derby Museum, which holds the world's largest and finest collection of Wright's work, gave 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.

© Self-portrait Wearing a Feathered Hat. C.1770 Derby Museum

This exhibition will travel to Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Nice review