Tuesday, June 27, 2006


An Experiment on a Bird in the Airpump, 1768 by Joseph Wright of Derby, The National Gallery of Art, London.

Wright of Derby studied under Sir Joshua Reynolds however his work is more experimental as he was fascinated with light and painting the effects of light and darkness. This work even features the moonlight so it is a combination of artificial and natural light.


Boggart said...

Martha, does this mean this is an example of chiaroscuro, or is this different? Since you didn't use the term, I'm assuming this use of light is differnt. I'm curious.

Regardless, it is a neat picture. Do you have any idea why the bird in the airpump? What is an airpump? Just a bellows? This is a thought provoding picture.

Marie N. said...

I notice how distressed one young woman apprears to be by the experiment. Yet, she makes no effort to shield the younger girl from the source of her distress. It is thought provoking. The pale pinks of the girls dresses seem to be out of place in the makeshift "lab" to me too.

Martha said...

Per the NGA London site: the man is travelling scientist who would go into people's homes and perform experiments. It was a time when science was all the rage and people were facinated by it. The clothing of the young girls also is indicative of the family's wealth.

The airpump was used to show how withdrawing the oxygen will kill the bird - thus causing the girls great distress. Probably their father comforts them by telling them of the importance of such scientific experiments.

Also nnote the skeptical young servant at the window and the young couple to the left who only have eyes for each other. The boy in front is enjoying himself unlike his sisters.


It is indeed a fine example of the contrast between light and dark.

Anonymous said...

I agree. The lighting is marvelous!

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