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             Booklet of 

Joseph Wright of Derby

18th/19th Century Artist Booklet 

By: Brian G. Alvarez

Art History Honors

        This booklet will be about the amazing english artist Joseph Wright, also known as Joseph Wright of Derby. The booklet will hold information of his life, his painting style, and the paintings he has made. It will also hold descriptions of those paintings and a deeper look at my two favorite paintings, which will be revealed when you read it. I am creating this booklet for my Art History class because I need to get a good grade in that class, but the reason I chose is the artist is specific to me. I found his life and his paintings very intriguing, and I hope you will find this booklet helpful for you can feel the same way too.

Introduction to The Project

         Joseph Wright was born on September 3rd, 1734 in Derby, England. He was the third child of the five in his family. Now, Joseph came from a a family of lawyers, but in 1751, he moved to London since he fully decided to become a painter because he wanted to express the ideas people have about science through art. Joseph spent most of his life in Great Britain, specifically Derby and London, but he also managed to spend a great amount of time traveling around Italy. Throughout his time of painting, he was strongly influenced by dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst and Rembrandt van Rijn, and by the views of science. With these thoughts circling through his mind, he set his mind to become a painter, and because of this, he didn't professionalize in anything else other than painting.

Background of Joseph Wright of Derby 


"The Synnot Children" (1781) National Gallery of Victoria, Oil on Canvas

        Joseph Wright of Derby integrated styles of art, but he is known to be in the era of Romanticism. Romantic art really distinguishes itself from other forms of art because it emphasizes the exotic, spiritual, creative, and irrational scenes of humans, and it does this really well since it dramatizes its scenes as well for the viewer can really feel what the artist is trying to express. The paintings that helped him get carried across England and even outside of Europe is his use of internal light, where the characters of the paintings are brightened from a light source, usually a candle or lamp, and the action is dramatized by the illumination of light. Of course, he did not create these affects of light and shade contrast for he received these ideas from Gerrit van Honthorst and Rembrandt van Rijn, but he was the first to start the use of science and engineering experiments and discoveries in his art.

"Penelope Unraveling Her Web" (1784), Oil on Canvas, Getty Center

The style of Joseph Wright

      Although his style mostly consisted of paintings involving science and engineering, as he developed as an artist, he began to paint landscapes for he saw the beauty in the land. He examined the landscapes so closely for he can truly paint and express the alluring landscapes. Every curve on a single rock that he saw, he put in his art, and the most intriguing aspect of his art is that he still implemented his own style that he used before, most of his landscape paintings still have a sense of that light and dark contrast, that dramatization, and that beauty that Wright views in all nature and ideas. His chiaroscuro style, contrast of light and dark, helped him separate himself from the rest and, because of this, we are all know learning of him. HIs unique style of using the Age of Enlightenment as structure since he drew his characters arguing about science and religion. All of this made his style one of a kind.

"Landscape with a Rainbow", (1794) , Oil on canvas, Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Style Of Joseph Continued 

"Cave in Evening", (1774), Oil on Canvas, Smith College Museum of Art

Artworks by Joseph Wright of Derby

"An Experiment on a bird in the Air Pump", (1768), Oil on Canvas, National Gallery, London

"Bridge Through a Cavern Moonlight" (1791), Oil on Canvas, Derby Museum and Art Gallery

"The Blacksmith's Shop" (1771), Oil on Canvas, Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Art Works Continued

       This painting called the "Indian Widow" speaks to me and attracts me in ways I cannot fathom. The use of chiaroscuro is amazing since the input from the light in the sky really forms the picture for we can focus on the widow. If we notice closer, the wrinkles in the drapery on the widow shows that she's in distress which would make sense for she has just lost her husband, The way she positioned herself is a normal human position of when your lost in thought and this helps me feel what she is feeling. I feel her lost of a loved one, and this because of the dramatization that Joseph also used in this painting.

"Indian Widow", (1784), Oil on Canvas, Derby Museum and Art Gallery

"Indian Widow"

          Now onto the next painting, "A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery". This painting in particular doesn't quite connect with me in the emotional side as the "Indian Widow" did, but instead, it connects with me by the idea of implementing science into art because I believe this is an amazing way to express the ideas of how science connect to human ideas, which is what Joseph attempted to express and executed beautifully. To describe this painting, I would say that Wright dramatized it very well by showing the amazement and curious expressions in the faces of the people surrounding the orrery. This painting also displays an miraculous use of chiaroscuro, and Wright's use of internal light coming from the lamp within the orrery. Overall, this painting really sets the tone on how good of an artist Joseph Wright of Derby is.

"A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery", (1766), Oil on Canvas, Derby Museum and Art Gallery 

"A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery"