JOSEPH WRIGHT of DERBY
(1748-1800)


Joseph Wright, usually known as WRIGHT OF DERBY (1734-1797) was an English painter who pioneered in the artistic treatment of early bourgeois society. He was one of the first to paint contemporary and industrial subjects in a realistic and dispassionate style. He was also the best European painter of artificial light of his day. Trained as a portrait painter by Thomas Hudson in the 1750s. Wright's home was Derby, one of the great centres of the birth of the Industrial Revolution, and his depictions of scenes lit by moonlight or candlelight combine the realism of the new machinery with a suggestion of the future school of romanticism. Above all, he painted a new class of people, men and women involved in industry and science. His pictures of technological subjects, partly inspired by the Dutch followers of Caravaggio, date from 1763 to 1773. In this respect, especially in his portraits of English Midlands industrialists and intellectuals, he can be considered a precursor of the "neo-classical" school, because despite remarkably similar approaches, Wright was not directly influenced by Roman models. Indeed, almost all of his paintings were completed before he visited Italy in 1774.

What Wright discovered in Italy was the power of Vesuvius, and his two pictures of the eruptions of 1774 and 1776 are often cited as a foretaste of romanticism.

 For information on individual works, and enlargement of picture, click on thumbnail.

 Self Portrait at 24

 Three Persons Viewing the Gladiator by Candlelight

 The Alchemist

 The Orrery Lecture


 The Airpump Experiment

 The Blacksmith Shop

 Vesuvius in 1774

 Vesuvius Erupting in 1776

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