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Joseph Wright of Derby 1734 – 1797 Vesuvius in Eruption_ with a

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					                                     Joseph Wright of Derby 1734 – 1797
                                             Vesuvius in Eruption,
    with a view over the Islands in the Bay of Naples, c. 1776 – 80
                                                                      Oil on canvas, 122 x 176.4cm
                                                                                 Tate, London (T05846)


The awesome nature of Vesuvius was a lure to travellers in the eighteenth century. Joseph
Wright of Derby made his excursion there from Rome in October – November 1774, a trip
which inspired over thirty paintings of Vesuvius in eruption. Wright however never did see an
actual eruption, the last prior to his visit being in 1767. The mountain underwent a major
eruption in 1777, and Wright’s painting may have been influenced by contemporary reports as
well as his own experience.

Joseph Wright here focuses upon the event of eruption. Thanks to recent research we now know
that he used ground sulphur, a material not normally associated with painting, for the final
application of yellow lines of lava-flow at the apex of the cone. Wright would have enjoyed the
literal equation between a volcanic element and its painted form since he counted amongst his
friends both geologists and scientists. Interestingly, the ground priming of the canvas is
composed of calcium sulphate, or gypsum, in oil, a common usage in Italy as opposed to using
chalk which was found in artwork produced north of the Alps. This raises the strong possibility
that the picture was painted in Italy.

The view is painted from the foothills of Vesuvius, with the promontory of Sorrento to the left, the
island of Capri to the right, and with some artistic license, the islands of Ischia and Procida are
also visible. Wright specialized in light effects and here contrasts the mysterious lunar light with
that of the dramatic sulphurous eruption. In the foreground the body of a victim of the earth
shattering event is carried away, accompanied by a mourning woman.


Activities

•   Art and Design
    Create a large sculptural form of a volcano. You may like to use
    wire or paper mâché as the cone, with textiles for the erupting lava.
•   Geography and Science
    Imagine that you were an eyewitness of this volcanic eruption.
    Write a description of what you see. Research people’s experiences
    of volcanic eruptions today. What is done to protect people from
    volcanoes?
•   Literacy
    Over the centuries, volcanoes have inspired poetry and other writings. Write an acrostic
    poem or a haiku about volcanoes.




Art at the Rockface: The Fascination of Stone
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery: 22 May 2006 – 3 September 2006
Millennium Galleries, Sheffield: 23 September 2006 – 7 January 2007
Art at the Rockface: The Fascination of Stone
                                                                             Richard Long b. 1945
                                                                         Delabole Spiral, 1981
                          Northumberland Slate, 28 stones, 34.5 x 240.5 x 228.5cm
                                                                      Sheffield Museums & Galleries Trust

Much of Richard Long’s artistic activity is based on his long solitary walks through landscapes
and remote or inhospitable terrain. He often collects objects such as stones and twigs on these
walks and then exhibits them in gallery spaces where he usually arranges them into circular or
other fairly simple geometric shapes. He also creates such works in their original settings and
documents his walks with photographs, text and maps.

Long explains the inspiration for his work on his website: ‘Nature has always been recorded by
artists, from pre-historic cave paintings to 20th century landscape photography. I too wanted to
make nature the subject of my work, but in new ways. I started working outside using natural
materials like grass and water, and this evolved into the idea of making a sculpture by walking.
I consider my landscape sculptures inhabit the rich territory between two ideological positions,
namely that of making monuments or conversely, of leaving footprints. As sculpture may be
moved, dispersed and carried, stones can be used as markers of time or distance, or exist as
parts of a huge, yet anonymous sculpture.’

In Delabole Spiral, 28 roughly quarried pieces of slate from the Delabole Quarry in Cornwall
have been arranged in a spiral on the floor. The quarried stone retains its natural appearance
and has received little or no modification, other than having been balanced on its flat, narrow
edge. As Long himself explained: “It’s enough to use stones as stones, for what they are. I’m a
realist.”

Long’s use of this universal spiral symbol connects Delabole Spiral to a prehistoric past when
people necessarily had a closer, more direct relationship to their natural environment, yet still
revealed this human need to make their mark or inscribe their presence on the landscape.


Activities

•   Art and Design
    Create your own piece of land art as a group using stones, leaves
    or logs. You may like to look at the work of other artists such as
    Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration.
•   Geography, Science and Citizenship
    Cornwall is famous for its quarrying industries, such as the Delabole
    slate quarry. Find out about the impact of quarrying industries on
    Cornwall. You may like to look at examples of how former quarries are now used in the
    tourism industry, for example at The Eden Project.
•   Literacy
    Spirals are found throughout nature and the manmade world. Write a spiral-shaped poem
    about some of the different spirals surrounding you.



Art at the Rockface: The Fascination of Stone
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery: 22 May 2006 – 3 September 2006
Millennium Galleries, Sheffield: 23 September 2006 – 7 January 2007
Art at the Rockface: The Fascination of Stone

				
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