Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool

Cover, Joseph Wright of Derby in Liverpool

Edited by Elizabeth E. Barker and Alex Kidson

With contributions by Martin Hopkinson, Jane Longmore, and Sarah Parsons

Published by the Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press

224 pages, 11 x 9 1/2 inches, 180 illustrations, cloth, ISBN 978-0300117455

Publication date: February 28, 2008


In 1768, Joseph Wright left his native city of Derby and moved to Liverpool in search of recognition and success. Earlier the same year he had exhibited the masterly Experiment on a Bird in the Air-Pump to great acclaim in London, but he failed to sell the picture. He would also, at the end of the year, find himself excluded from the Royal Academy. Liverpool offered Wright the opportunity to engage with wealthy clients who had little experience of art patronage. He painted portraits of the prosperous merchants and their families, and continued to develop the brilliantly illuminated subject paintings on which his reputation chiefly rests today.

This beautifully illustrated book examines Wright’s remarkable impact on the artistic climate of the expanding port town of Liverpool and on the other artists working there. The Merseyside network of merchants, bankers, and amateur and professional artists that Wright encountered in the years around 1770 is identified as his true historical milieu. The book serves as the catalogue of the exhibition of the same name shown at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the Yale Center for British Art in 2007 and 2008.

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