Thursday 24 August 2023

The Wrights of Derby

 Last weekend my Derbyshire cousin and I stepped into the Derby Museum and Art Gallery to admire the Joseph Wrights which are its chief glory. Had we visited a couple of days later, there would have been two more Wright paintings to enjoy, as the gallery, in something of a coup, has acquired these two, A Girl Reading a Letter with an Old Man Reading over Her Shoulder and Two Boys Fighting over a Bladder, on long loan from a private owner. This is particularly welcome, as these two have only been seen in public four times in the past 250 years. While neither is a full-on masterpiece, both look to be full of interest and both vividly demonstrate the kind of dramatic chiaroscuro effects that were at the heart of Wright's art. 'Two boys fighting over a bladder' might seem a strange subject for a painting, but inflated bladders, used as children's playthings, turn up in Dutch 17th and 18th-century art, and the possibilities of light shining through an inflated bladder were not lost on Wright, whose works also include A Boy Blowing a Bladder in Candlelight (Wolverhampton Art Gallery), Two Boys with a Bladder (J. Paul Getty Museum) and Two Boys by Candlelight, Blowing a Bladder (Huntington Art Museum). Derby also has Boy and Girl with a Bladder by William Tate in its collection.
  Anyway, with or without inflated bladders and girls reading letters, the Joseph Wright gallery is a glorious sight – even if, as it was when we visited, it also contains rows of forward-facing chairs awaiting a wedding ceremony. These days provincial museums and galleries must do whatever it takes to survive. 

No comments:

Post a Comment