The more things change…

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.

Tricia’s website

6 responses to “The more things change…

  1. When I got to the link you posted, i went to the website and was immediately struck by the artist’s use of light and dark. Then I come back to read more and you said the same thing I thought! But to be plagued so by feelings of inadequacy. We all struggle with that, I think, in our writing, sometimes even in our daily lives. It’s a constant battle for me, personally, to feel like I haven’t done enough or acted in the best way I could. Age is tempering that some, but I have a lot of dialogues with myself, so I can understand Joseph Wright’s mindset. Lol.

    • Same here, Laurie. I have those dialogues too, LOL. The artist’s words really resonated with me and struck a chord. There’s nothing new about procrastination it seems, even the greats suffered from it.

  2. Reinforces that we need to just keep moving forward. Sometimes in only small steps. You are so fortunate to live in a place steeped in history. When we visited the museums in Europe and saw the incredible paintings and details it was …. can’t think of a word. Pictures of paintings don’t do them justice.

  3. I am so pleased you had this experience of Joseph Wright. I tod you Derby had “hidden treasures”! Thought provoking blog relevant to many situations.

  4. Joseph Wright is indeed a hidden treasure of the art world which is a shame because he was a superb artist. And haven’t we all had those doubts and deep moods when we feel we are inadequate at our chosen art so can well appreciate and understand his sentiments. It’s reassuring to learn even the best suffered such lows too. We must never give up. 🙂

  5. You’re right. Those words resonated with me for sure. I love that you shared a link to his work. He is new to me and I like his style. Jillian

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