Art in Focus: Joseph Wright and the Spectacle of Science

Art in Focus is an academic initiative for members of the Yale Center for British Art Student Guide Program, through which students are introduced to every aspect of exhibition practice. Students intensify their engagement with the Center’s collections, strengthen their research skills, and test writing in new formats. Student curators select objects for exhibition, write text panels and object labels, and make decisions about installation. 

The inaugural Student Guide exhibition, Joseph Wright of Derby and the Spectacle of Science, focused on a mezzotint after Joseph Wright of Derby’s painting A Philosopher Shewing an Experiment on the Air Pump (1769). The exhibition explored the ways in which science functioned as part of the social fabric of elite culture in eighteenth-century Britain. Under the guidance of Associate Curator of Paintings and Sculpture A. Cassandra Albinson and Postdoctoral Research Associate Matthew Hargraves, the students examined this theme through intensive study of the print in comparison with other works from the departments of Paintings and Sculpture, Prints and Drawings, and Rare Books and Manuscripts.

View works from the collection included in this exhibition here.


Participating students were Jenny Braun (DC ’08), Molly Dillon (PC ’08), Adam Eaker (DC ’07), Julia Hickey (TD ’07), Andrew Lee (BR ’09), Sharon Madanes (DC ’08), Kyle McNally (DC ’07), Kate O’Brien (DC ’07), and Meg Weeks (DC ’08).

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Art in Focus: Joseph Wright and the Spectacle of Science installation, Yale Center for British Art, photo by Richard Caspole