Exhibition | Seeing the Light

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on April 18, 2023

Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving That Lecture on the Orrery, in which a Lamp Is Put in Place of the Sun, ca. 1766, oil on canvas, 58 × 80 inches (Derby Museum & Art Gallery).

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Now on view at the Foundling Museum:

Seeing the Light
Foundling Museum, London, 7 March — 4 June 2023

We at the Foundling Museum are excited to display A Philosopher Giving That Lecture on the Orrery in Which a Lamp is Put in Place of the Sun by revered ‘painter of light’ Joseph Wright of Derby. First exhibited in London in 1766, this dramatic painting—on loan from Derby Museum & Art Gallery—offers a fascinating window to changing social attitudes and public understanding of science, education, and technology in the eighteenth century. Wright and his large network of friends and acquaintances had multiple points of connection with key people in the Foundling Hospital’s history and collections. Visit the Museum to discover the story of the Lunar Society and the threads that link a token admitting the holder to a lecture in experimental philosophy, a clock detailing the phases of the moon, and a letter written by girls apprenticed by the Hospital to Wright’s painting and the Age of Enlightenment it celebrates.

While The Orrery is on display in London, visitors can see the Foundling’s magnificent painting by William Hogarth, The March of the Guards to Finchley (1750), at Derby Museum & Art Gallery.

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Note (18 April 2023) — Although it it has yet to penetrate the widespread conception of Wright as a progressive revolutionary artists set, above all, on visualizing Enlightenment science, Matthew Craske’s book Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Darkness (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2020) should be required reading for anyone trying to understand Wright as an eighteenth-century artist. CH

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