Major conference planned on Derby painter

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MORE than 200 years after Derby painter Joseph Wright’s death, a major conference will look at the continuing influence of one of the city’s most famous sons.

Wright (1734 -1797) was a landscape and portrait artist whose paintings captured Great Britain’s scientific and industrial boom as much as its countryside. A stone stand with an orrery on top – a metal sculpture depicting the positions and motions of the solar system’s planets and moons – marks his birthplace at 28 Irongate, Derby.

The conference on Thursday, January 12, at the University of Derby’s Markeaton Street site, in Derby – entitled ‘New Perspectives on Joseph Wright of Derby’ – has been organised by University researchers with the support of Derby City Council, Derby Museums and Art Gallery and the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council (MLA). It will form part of the city’s ongoing ‘Wright of Derby Festival’, due to culminate in the opening of a refurbished gallery of his work at the Museum and Art Gallery in early 2012.

The conference – open to members of the public – will feature experts from the University of Derby; the universities of Nottingham, Keele and Glasgow; and Derby Museums speaking on aspects of Wright’s life including his: connections to Derby, relationship with his critics, philosophy, musical friends and his artistic legacy.

During the conference there will also be a performance of classical music from Wright’s era and exhibitions of work relating to Joseph Wright by modern artists David Ainley and Carl Robinson, displayed in The Street at the University’s Markeaton Street site.

Professor John Goto, University of Derby Senior Lecturer in Photography and conference organiser, said: “Derby Museums and Art Gallery holds a unique collection of Joseph Wright’s artworks and documents, so it’s fitting this conference is being held in the city.

“Despite his fame there are many aspects of Wright’s life and legacy which have had scant attention. We’ll be looking at these and what relevance the painter’s work can have for today’s artists, designers, writers, historians, and even scientists and city planners.”

Stuart Gillis, Director of Museum Transformation at Derby Museums and Art Gallery, will speak during the conference on Living up to Wright’s legacy: opportunity, civic pride and the contemporary challenge within Derby.

Jonathan Wallis, Assistant Head of Museums – Programming, said: “Joseph Wright is perhaps Derby’s most famous son. This conference brings together research that will help to inspire creativity in Derby and further afield in the 21st Century.”

Entry to the one-day conference is £40 (£30 students and concessions) including lunch. To book online go to web link www.derby.ac.uk/conferences/josephwright or contact Joanna Martin on 01332 591395 or email: j.martin@derby.ac.uk.