Joseph Wright of DerbyAn Iron Forge 1772

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Artwork details

Joseph Wright of Derby (1734‑1797)
An Iron Forge
Date 1772
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 1213 x 1320 mm frame: 1458 x 1570 x 123 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1992
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1760


Wright was a painter of portraits and subject-pictures who spent most of his life in his birth-place, Derby. From the mid 1760s he began to paint scenes of contemporary scientific and industrial life, of which An Iron Forge is one of the most striking.

Many of his explorations of new inventions and technology were painted as 'night-pieces' with strong contrasting effects of light and darkness. An Iron Forge is one of five 'night pieces' which Wright made between 1771 and 1773, taking as his subject the blacksmiths' shops and forges of Derbyshire. In this scene of a small iron forge at work, an iron-founder and his family are bathed in the warm light cast by a newly forged white-hot iron bar, which has been dragged out of the nearby furnace by an assistant. Wright adapted the scale for dramatic effect, compressing the scene to accommodate the machinery and the figures. In actuality, the heat and sparks would have made their proximity impossible… (read more)

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