This picture is a splendid example of Wright's industrial subjects.

The scenes of workmen plying their crafts by night, their forges dramatically lit by the glow of white hot metal, are fascinating documents in the context of the Industrial Revolution as well as being central to the work of Wright himself. The work belongs to a larger group of 'night pieces', as Wright himself called them, all ambitious figure subjects with dramatic lighting, painted at the height of his career. Typical, too, is the introduction of children, looking out shyly at the spectator, joined by an old man with the rapt gaze of a philosopher. Some subtle tension seems to exist between these figures and the workmen, a tension heightened by the dramatic effect of light. There is a thoughtful balance between sense and sensibility, between the prosaic, necessary task efficiently performed going to benefit mankind, and the fear or amazement that its accomplishment inspires.

Provenance

Robert Alexander of Edinburgh; his sale, Christie's 1775; R Price Jones before 1791; Robert Hyde Greg before 1875; by descent.


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