Joseph Wright was born in Derby in 1734, and died there in 1797. His attachment to his native city was marked by the fact that a significant part of his creative heritage is made up of paintings stored in the city museum and owned by the city council.
This artist is one of the most prominent representatives of 18th-century English art. Critics often call him the master of chiaroscuro, because he masterfully managed to portray various effects from light sources, especially from burning candles.
Creativity of the master was formed under the influence of the art of Caravaggio and his school. It is built on sharp contrasts and the use of very deep, almost black shadows. As a result, the illuminated parts and fragments of the body seem especially voluminous, convex, literally protruding from the plane of the canvas.
Wright is considered one of the first artists to start painting on industrial topics. He created a series of works in which he depicted how science was making its way out of alchemy. This topic was very popular at the time when the most significant and fundamental scientific discoveries were made.
The artist's father was a lawyer, the family had five children, Joseph turned out to be the third child in a row. As a child, he studied at a local school and studied drawing by copying various works of art. In those days, it was a common practice.
Having made a firm decision to start an artist's career, Wright went to London, where he studied for three years with Thomas Hudson, who was a teacher of the famous Reynolds. The influence of the teacher on the student was very great, so his first works were done in a style and creative manner imitating Hudson.
The future master spent 13 years at the beginning of his career in his native Derby. Here he met Josiah Wedgwood, who founded one of the first industrial enterprises for the mass production of porcelain, as well as the chemist Joseph Priestley. Their experiments were very attractive for the artist, so he painted paintings on scientific topics with great interest and pleasure, for example, “Planetarium” and “Testing the pump”.
The artist tried to promote his canvases by exhibiting in London, but he always preferred to live in Derby. In 1773 - 1775 he visited Italy, where he explored and sketched numerous remains of ancient civilization, made copies of similarly ancient statues and painted numerous landscapes. Here he happened to see the eruption of the legendary Vesuvius. This sight was so impressive and shocked the master that he wrote a series of paintings on this subject.
Another important motif characteristic of his work of that period is the numerous images of caves and grottoes. In them, as in other natural objects, the artist was attracted by the image of light and shadow, so many paintings reflect the view from the cave of the surrounding world.
Trying to get a new clientele, Wright spent two years in Bath. But everything was in vain, because in the city everyone was massively passionate about the work of Gainsborough.
Since 1778, the position of the artist has been strengthened, and he creates one of his most famous works - a series of portraits. He begins to exhibit at the Academy of Fine Arts and becomes one of its members.
The last years of the artist were difficult due to his illness. He died in 1797. He was buried in a church that did not survive. Currently, his remains lie in the Nottinham Road cemetery.
It is interesting that Wright received most of his income for performing custom portraits, and in history he has survived as the author of one of the first paintings of industrial painting.