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Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734–1797, British, active in Italy (1773–75)

Landscape with a Rainbow

between 1793 and 1794
Oil on canvas
Support (PTG): 27 1/2 × 39 5/16 inches (69.9 × 99.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, in honor of Duncan Robinson, Director, Yale Center for British Art (1981–1995)
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
arch bridge | bridge (built work) | landscape | light | meteorology | rainbow | stream | trees
On view

Although best known for his portraits and candlelight genre scenes, frequently of scientific or industrial subjects, Joseph Wright of Derby was particularly drawn to landscapes in his later career. In 1792 he wrote to friend and patron John Leigh Philips: “tho’ I am engaged in portraits . . . I find myself continually stealing off, and getting to landscapes.” The following year he wrote to the same friend: “I am trying my hand at a rainbow effect.” In many of his landscapes, Wright sought to capture special effects of natural light, as he had earlier made a name for himself with his pictures of artificial light (two of which are shown nearby). He painted two versions of this landscape with a rainbow in quick succession in 1793–94, one for himself (presumably the painting now in the Derby Art Gallery) and one for a relative of his friend Philips.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

William Bemrose, The Life and Works of Joseph Wright, A.R.A., Commonly Called "Wright of Derby.", Bemrose & sons, London and Derby, 1885, p. 109, Folio A N 86 (YCBA)

Allan Braham, Wright of Derby : Mr. & Mrs. Coltman, exhibition organised and booklet written by Allan Braham : National Gallery, London, 5 February-27 April, 1986... , National Gallery, London, London, 1986, p. 7, fig. 5, NJ18 W95 A15 M71 1986 (YCBA)

Commune di Milano (Palazzo Reale), Pittura inglese 1660-1840, due secoli di cultura, storia e costume in Inghilterra : milano, Palazzo reale, 29 gennaio-16 marzo 1975 , Electra, Milano, 1975, pp. 136-137, ND466 P53 (YCBA)

Stephen Daniels, Joseph Wright, Tate Publishing, London, 1999, pp. 75, 76, 78, fig. 62, NJ18 W95 D25 1999 (YCBA)

Judy Egerton, Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734-1797, Londres, Tate Gallery, 7 fâevrier-22 avril 1990 ; Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 17 mai-23 juillet 1990 ; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6 septembre-2 dâecembre 1990 , Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1990, pp. 166-167, no. 106, NJ18 W95 +E5414 1990 Oversize (YCBA)

Judy Egerton, Wright of Derby, Tate Publishing, London, 1990, p. 195, no. 124, NJ18 W95 +E54 1990 Oversize (YCBA)

European Masters of the Eighteenth Century, Winter Exhibition, 1954-5 , Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1954, p. 120, no. 408, ND456 L65 1954B (LSF)

David Fraser, Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797), Derby Museums & Art Gallery, Derby, 1979, pp. 12, 15, 17, no. 43, pl. 14, NJ18 W95 F72 (YCBA)

Geoffrey Grigson, Britain Observed : The Landscape Through Artists' Eyes, Phaidon, London, 1975, pp. 72-73, pl. 40, ND1354 G75 (YCBA)

Louis Hawes, Presences of Nature : British Landscape, 1780-1830, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1982, p. 54, ND1354.4 H38 (YCBA)

Imprimerie moderne du Lion, La peinture britannique de Gainsborough a Bacon, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, 9 mai-1er septembre 1977 inauguree par le Prince de Galles, le 9 mai 1977 , Paris, 1977, p. 89, no. 66, ND464 P45 1977 (YCBA)

Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734-1797, an exhibition of paintings and drawings, the Tate Gallery, 11 April to 18 May, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 31 May to 21 June , Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1958, pp. 33-34, no. 32, NJ18 W95 A77 (YCBA)

Desmond King-Hele, Fascinated by Light, RSA Journal, vol. 138, April 1990, p. 366, U10 R81j (LSF)

Desmond King-Hele, Fascinated by Light, RSA Journal, vol. 138, April 1990, p. 366, available online via JSTOR

Huon Mallalieu, Art World Hopes for a Dramatic Discovery at the End of the Rainbow, The Times (London), April 13, 2013, p. 80 (Features), Available Online : LexisNexis Academic (YCBA) Also available on Microfilm: Film An T482 (SML)

John McEwen, Englightenment Portrayed, Art in America, 78, October 1990, p. 167, N1 +A43 Oversize (HAAS)

Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby : Painter of Light, Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art, London, New York, 1968, p. 262 (v.1), 217 (v.2), no. 298, pl. 347 (v.2), NJ18 W95 +N53 Oversize (YCBA)

Jane Wallis, Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734-1797, an introduction to the work of Joseph Wright of Derby with a catalogue of drawings held by Derby Museum and Art Gallery; published on the occasion of an exhibition commemorating the bicentenary of the artist's death, 21 June-28 September, 1997, Derby... , Derby Museums & Art Gallery, Derby, 1997, p. 47, pl. 31, NJ18 W95 +W25 1997 Oversize (YCBA)

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