When AJ and I travel, we almost always carve out time to visit the local art gallery and museum. During a few days in Derbyshire, we found a small art gallery in the city of Derby virtually dedicated to a famous local 18th Century artist, Joseph Wright. We didn’t know much about him or the art of the period, but we were lucky to visit at a quiet time which meant we had what amounted to a private tour of the room housing his paintings.
Our guide was incredibly knowledgable about Joseph Wright and pointed out many things in the paintings that I’m sure we would have missed if we hadn’t had the benefit of his expertise. Here’s a link to the gallery if you’d like to see some of the paintings.
Joseph Wright was considered the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution and was famous for his use of light and dark in his paintings, especially favoring subjects portrayed by candlelight. Some absolutely stunning work.
But what caught my attention was the artist himself. An amazing creative, with absolutely incredible talent, he was prone to fits of depression and doubts about that talent. During one period of his life, after he had produced paintings such as A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (see link above), and having received bad reviews for some of his work, he became really disillusioned with himself and his art and stopped working completely. He wrote:
“I have heard nothing but humiliating observations on my paintings. which have tended much to the inactivity of my pencil for sometime past. What a mere machine I am become. Depressed and renedered useless by a little censure and put into motion again by a little flattery. I really believe my enemies might persuade me I have no pretentions to paint. What a thing have these weak nerves made of me.”
Food for thought for all the creatives out there, because I’m sure we can all understand these feelings. How many times has a bad review or negative response to our own work made us put down pen, pencil, brush, needle, etc? It’s comforting to know that we’re in good company, and that even the greats suffered through periods of procrastination when they felt their work just wasn’t good enough.
Some things, it seems, never change.