Painter and place: Joseph Wright and Derby 1797-1886

Insley, Alice Amelia (2017) Painter and place: Joseph Wright and Derby 1797-1886. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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As the endurance of Wright’s soubriquet ‘of Derby’ shows, the association between Wright and Derby is distinctive in its ongoing cultural resonance. The legacy of this today is the Joseph Wright Collection at Derby Museum and Art Gallery – the largest collection of his work in the world. This thesis is, therefore, concerned not with arguing for the relationship between Wright and Derby but with attending to how it has been represented and claimed during the 19th-century. This will encompass both how the relationship influenced Wright’s posthumous reputation and how it was enlisted in Derby as the painter was incorporated into the town’s social and cultural fabric. The different claims made upon the artist’s life and locality will become apparent through this, demonstrating the changing relation between painter and place as it was adapted and appropriated according to different times, places, and discourses. This refurbishment of the painter throughout the 19th-century is significant as it provided cultural continuity at a time when the town was rapidly transforming.

Exhibitions were an important medium through which the relationship was shaped and represented: within Derby there was a display of Wright’s work nearly every decade. These represent important moments in which Wright was enlisted as a source of cultural capital and in which his reputation was shaped and sustained. Following the natural chronology of the period, the thesis will first consider Wright’s immediate commemoration through the networks of people and circulation of objects involved in sales of his work and his literary representation. In 1839 the Derby Mechanics’ Institute exhibition was heralded as ‘Derby’s first exhibition’; Wright’s prominent display in this implicated him within the civic culture of the 1830s. As momentum around exhibitions and Wright built in the latter half of the century, the exhibitions in 1866, 1870, and 1877 will be considered in relation to one another, consolidating Wright’s presence within the town. Lastly, the thesis will close with the 1880s, when Wright’s association with Derby was celebrated and claimed through a large retrospective exhibition of his work, the beginning of a municipal art collection, the publication of his monograph, and a display at the Royal Academy in 1886.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Daniels, Stephen
Alfrey, Nicholas
Bamford, Lucy
Keywords: Joseph Wright of Derby
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DA Great Britain
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Geography
Item ID: 41356
Depositing User: Insley, Alice
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2018 11:20

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