BATH.- Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) lived and worked in Bath between November 1775 and June 1777. This brief and little-known episode in Wrights life marked a crossroads in his career, yet it has never been explored in detail. Joseph Wright of Derby: Bath and Beyond places 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 also go beyond Bath to examine the effect of his time in the city and his travels in Italy on Wrights later work.
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
Wright came to Bath to paint portraits, hoping to build on the success of Thomas Gainsborough who had recently left for London. The exhibition includes 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 artists 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.
The organizers are grateful to Derby Museum, which holds the worlds largest and finest collection of Wrights work, for its generous loans to this exhibition which 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.