Hmm.  It seems to be conference season!  Nothing for months, and then several come along in quick succession – just like metropolitan buses!  In the country we’re lucky if we get one an hour (each way)- buses that is…

Anyway, I digress!  Where was I?…. Oh yes, conferences.

This week kicked off conference season with a day’s conference hosted by the University of Derby on Joseph Wright, painter, otherwise known as Wright of Derby.  He was no mean painter and a bit of a polymath too, with interests in science and industry as well as considerable prowess with the brush.

Now Derby is not London, and, as is still the case too often today, that is seen as a problem if you want to get on in the world!  You may have heard of the North/South divide in the UK, but in those days it was more a London/Not London divide.  Derby, being in the Midlands, was most definitely Not London, and Wright was often not taken as a serious painter because of his provincial roots.  But this was a man who was proud of his heritage and, despite having fallings out with the powers-that-be who were in charge of the Royal Academy, his reputation as a painter was undisputed, but typically valued more after his death than during his lifetime.

The conference was a very interesting affair, looking at different facets of his life and the place and people who were important in his life.  So we looked at the artistic composition of his work, geographical locations of his landscapes, his relationships with the important creatives and scientists of the time, including Rousseau, Hayley (the poet), and Erasmus Darwin, and the music in his life.

There is a wonderful collection of his work at the Derby Museums and we were also treated to a peek behind the scenes by the Keeper of the Collection.

The day was rounded off by a performance of music (flute and harpsichord) which would have been played in the music society of which he was an active member.

Next week, I am attending a conference on Contemporary Craft in historic settings which will “explore ways in which makers can work within historical contexts”.  Then there is one in February, in connection with the Lost in Lace Exhibition that I talked about last month.  So I’ll keep you posted!