Enfilade

Exhibition | Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 12, 2013

From The Holburne Museum:

Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond
The Holburne Museum, Bath, 25 January — 5 May 2014
Derby Museum and Art Gallery, dates TBA

Joseph_Wright_of_Derby_-_Vesuvius_in_Eruption,_with_a_View_over_the_Islands_in_the_Bay_of_Naples_-_Google_Art_Project

Joseph Wright, Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the
Islands in the Bay of Naples, ca. 1776–80 (London: Tate)

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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

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.

Wright

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

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. This exhibition will travel to Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

A study day is scheduled for 24 February 2014.

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From I. B. Tauris:

Amina Wright, Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond (London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2014), 112 pages, ISBN: 978-1781300213, £16 / $30.

coverJoseph Wright (1734–1797) arrived in Bath from his native Derby in November 1775. Recently returned from a tour of Italy, he came to the fashionable spa town to re-establish his business as a portrait painter, hoping to fill the vacancy left by Thomas Gainsborough the previous year. This book, the first to examine Wright’s little-known Bath period, places the artist in the context of a city then at the height of its unique cultural significance. Using rarely-seen illustrations of his work, it considers his attempts to conquer a saturated portrait market with images of local celebrities, and his use of domestic spaces for public exhibition. His celebrated views of fireworks in Rome and the terrors of Vesuvius were first shown in Bath. Beautifully illustrated and highly readable, Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond sheds new light on a key moment in this important English artist’s career, deepening our understanding of his life and work as a whole.

Amina Wright is Senior Curator at the Holburne Museum in Bath, UK, and has been Curator of Fine Art there since 2001. She was closely involved in the Holburne’s major redevelopment project, completed in 2011, as well as a number of exhibitions relating to British eighteenth-century painting, drawings and Georgian Bath. Previous publications include the exhibition catalogues Pictures of Innocence: Children in Portraits from Hogarth to Lawrence (2005) and Pickpocketing the Rich: Portrait Painting in Bath 1720–1800 (2002).

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