Curator‘s Comments

With A Cavern, Evening, Joseph Wright combines landscape painting with detailed scientific observation. A member of the Lunar Society in his native Derby, Wright was eager to understand the laws governing the physical world, the planets, and the stars. This undoubtedly led to his interest in the use of light to affect both the pictorial drama and the meaning of his paintings.
Wright executed this work, along with its companion, A Cavern, Morning (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), at his studio in Rome during his two-year stay in Italy. Both are based on sketches he made while visiting a series of coastal caverns near Naples. In this painting, the viewer is positioned as though standing on a ledge inside the dark recess of the cavern, with a vista of brilliant light outside the cave. Wright offers a view through the rocks that line the interior and form the opening to the grotto to the still water and sky outside.

Joseph Wright of Derby. British, 1734–1797

A Cavern, Evening, 1774

Oil on canvas

Purchased

ID Number: SC 1950:16