Artwork of the Day – Joseph Wright of Derby

academy_lamplight_derby.jpgLiverpool artwork of the day – Monday November 19 2007. ‘An Academy by Lamplight’ by Joseph Wright of Derby at The Walker.

Exhibition ‘Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool’ 17 November 2007 – 24 February 2008

This major exhibition explores the three years Joseph Wright of Derby spent in Liverpool at the start of the town’s cultural Renaissance and growing status as a major world port.

During his time in Liverpool, between 1768 and 1771, Wright was remarkably productive painting not only portraits but his trademark Candlelight works. His account book, on display at the exhibition, lists many of the paintings he produced. Wright’s visit transformed Liverpool from an artistic backwater, into a place where art patrons felt confident and proud of their taste.

Shortly before moving to Liverpool, Wright gained celebrity in London with his painting ‘An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’. However, he failed to sell the painting, and this led him to re-examine his use of dramatic light effects.

He decided to scale down from the heroic size of the ‘Air Pump’. He began to develop subjects with outdoor settings, and experimented with new ways of using paint to depict light. He also incorporated into his paintings the resuls of a fresh study of perspective.


A key painting at this time was ‘An Academy by Lamp light’. This may well relate to the founding of Liverpool’s first Society of Artists in 1769. Wright’s friend Peter Perez Burdett was its President.

The Walker