Browse Publications

Joseph Wright of Derby:
Painter of Darkness

Matthew Craske

Publicaton Date
November 2020
Standard Number
Yale University Press
416 pages, 285 x 245mm
195 colour + b/w illus.

Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–97), though conventionally known as a ‘painter of light,’ returned repeatedly to nocturnal images. His essential preoccupations were dark and melancholy. He had an enduring concern with death, ruin, old age, loss of innocence, isolation and tragedy.

In this long-awaited book, Matthew Craske takes a fresh approach to Wright of Derby, which takes seriously contemporary reports of his melancholia and nervous disposition, and goes on to question accepted understandings of the artist: that he set out to paint the industrial revolution, was personally heavily concerned with science, and had his cultural milieu in such clubs as the Lunar Society, which are seen to have existed to promote science and industry. In this very different portrayal, we gain a bleaker, more nuanced understanding of Wright of Derby as well as a new and thought-provoking vision of the wider art-historical period.

About the author

  • Matthew Craske is reader in Art History at Oxford Brookes University.