Landscape with Dale Abbey 1785
Oil on canvas
Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797)
Find this painting at:
Museums Sheffield: Graves Gallery
This painting depicts a ruined abbey in the village of Dale in Derbyshire. The historic importance of this site dates back to around 1130 when a Derby baker had a vision of the Virgin Mary telling him to go to Deepdale (the old name for Dale Abbey) to worship God. In around 1150 a priory was founded on this site by Augustinian Canons but it was not until 1200 that the Abbey of St Mary was founded. The Abbey owned 24,000 acres of land and flourished until its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1538.
Joseph Wright was born in Derby in 1734. He trained under the portrait painter Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) and became a portrait artist himself, touring the East Midlands and working in Liverpool from 1768 to 1771. He became known for his meticulously painted groups of figures, situated in darkened interiors illuminated by candles or lamps. His reputation grew from these lighting effects which he practiced to scientific precision.
He painted many portraits and history paintings, but towards the end of his career increasingly preferred to record the landscape. Wright has constructed the scene around Dale Abbey, in particular adding in the cliffs on the right in order to frame the view and draw the viewer's eye through the painting.
Graves Gift, 1935
Why the painting was chosen:
Joseph Wright of Derby is a popular artist, but this work is interesting as it differs from the dramatic lighting effects in his best known works. Dale Abbey is not far from Sheffield and can still be visited today.