• Title: The Dead Soldier
  • Creator: Joseph Wright of Derby
  • Date Created: 1789
  • Location: United Kingdom
  • Physical Dimensions: w198.12 x h165.1 x d12.7 mm (framed)
  • Label Copy: Joseph Wright of Derby, a member of the industrial and creative avant garde in the north of England, first exhibited this painting at London’s Royal Academy in 1789 to great acclaim. The canvas depicts a woman cradling her child with a dramatically foreshortened cavalryman crumpled at her side. Newly widowed and destitute, the mourning woman joins the hands of the child with her own and that of her dead husband, linking their sad fates as the sun sets over the forest. That the child has fallen away from suckling at his mother’s breast suggests the poverty that awaits them both in an age when respectable women had few economic opportunities. What was most radical about the painting in its day is that the viewer is asked to empathize deeply with an anonymous figure: we know nothing of the dead soldier’s identity other than what his uniform tells us and the hint from the date that he may have fallen in the American Revolution. It is the infant who gives us entry into the painting, looking out calmly, even sternly to meet our gaze. The emotional intensity of the painting together with Wright’s astonishing bravura brushwork place this long-lost masterpiece at a critical moment of transition in the birth of the modern age, when the rationalism of the Enlightenment began to give way to the emotion of the Romantic movement.
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/musart/x-2006-sl-1.156/2006_1.156.JPG?lasttype=boolean;lastview=thumbnail;resnum=1;sel9=ic_exact;size=20;sort=relevance;start=1;subview=detail;view=entry;rgn1=musart_an;select1=starts;q1=2006%2F1.156
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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