Sunday 2 May 2010

Joseph Wright

Half way up Iron Gate in Derby, there is a marble pillar (I'm guessing probably around 9' tall) with this on top. The pillar is a memorial to Joseph Wright (after whom the college was named) and marks the place of his birth. The original building no longer exists.

Born in 1734, Joseph Wright is one of Derby's most famous sons. He was a member of the Royal Academy and the most significant midlands artist of the late 18th Century; painting portraits, landscapes and interiors. He also had a fascination for science and was noted for the perception displayed in his paintings of industrial and scientific subjects.

Amongst other famous figures, he painted the portraits of his friend Erasmus Darwin and industrialist Jedediah Strutt (who will appear on here in due course).

I confess to not knowing much about Joseph Wright until a couple of years ago, when my job share took him as the focus of an art topic. Particularly, the children were studying his use of light in landscape paintings and creating their own artwork in his style. His paintings are very atmospheric and the results from the children were great; tribute to the quality of both artist and teacher, as well as to the enthusiasm of the children.

Very appropriately, Derby Museum and Art Gallery houses the largest collection of original Joseph Wright paintings in the world, and, also has on display, a large working model of the 'thing' on top of the pillar. The 'thing' is actually an Orrery, which is an early form of planetarium invented in the early eighteenth century to show the movement of the planets round the sun during the course of the year. It was named after the Earl of Orrery who was the patron of the invention.
Here is the full memorial in its location on Iron Gate:

And for a sample gallery of Joseph Wright paintings, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't know anything about Joseph Wright so thanks for educating me. The Orrery makes a lovely silhouette in the top pic.