Before Depression
1660 - 1800

The Exhibition
18th-Century Blues: Exploring the Melancholy Mind

Download catalogue for the exhibition | Download lectures associated with this exhibition

One purpose of this project is to attempt to recover the associations of many of the eighteenth-century terms in the popular mind, as well as in changing medical understanding, and one purpose of the exhibition 18th-Century Blues is to display some of the ways in which visual artists of the period depicted the different modes in which eighteenth-century people suffered from and explained 'depression'.

This exhibition brings together a range of artists who treated 'the blues' in their work. They include the influential Albrecht Durer 1, William Hogarth 2, Joshua Reynolds 3, George Romney, Joseph Wright 4, Thomas Rowlandson 5 William Blake, Maria Cosway, Thomas Jones 6, Jacob van Ruisdael, Caspar David Friedrich 7, Charles Le Brun, Johann Caspar Lavater, John Constable, John Martin and local artist Luke Clennell 8. Some were themselves depressive, some were interested in medical matters connected with the condition, some painted melancholy scenes, some even made fun of 'depression' for satirical purposes, and some painted friends and well-known figures who we know suffered from periodic low spirits. 18th-Century Blues offers a sometimes lively, sometimes sombre but, we hope, always thought-provoking insight into how people dealt with a common human experience two hundred years ago.

Works are kindly loaned by The National Gallery, London; Tate; The National Portrait Gallery; The British Museum, London; The Wellcome Library, London; The Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester; Derby Museums and Art Gallery; The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (Tyne and Wear Museums); The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University and Petworth House, The Egremont Collection (acquired in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 1957 and subsequently transferred to The National Trust).

18th-Century Blues is on display at the Shipley Gallery, Gateshead, from June until the end of August 2008.

1. "Melencholia 1", Albrecht Durer. Engraving on paper. 1514. E:0031 ©Hatton Gallery,
Newcastle University
2 "The Bathos", William Hogarth, Etching on paper. 1764. P.8525 ©The Whitworth Art Gallery,
University of Manchester
3. "Samuel Johnson", Joshua Reynolds. Oil on canvas. About 1769. NPG 1445 ©The National Portrait Gallery, London
4. "Maria and her Dog Silvio", Joseph Wright of Derby. Oil on canvas. 1781. ©Derby Museums and Art Gallery
5."A Hypochondriac surrounded by doleful specters", Thomas Rowlandson, after James Dunthorne. Etching with watercolour on paper. 1788. 18125i © The Wellcome Library
6. "A Wall in Naples", Thomas Jones. Oil on paper, laid down on canvas. C.1782. NG2562 ©The National Gallery, London
7. "The Woman with the Spider's Web", Casper David Friedrich. Woodcut on paper. 1803. PD 1983-7-25-2 ©The British Museum, London

8. "Self Portrait", Luke Clennell. Pencil drawing on paper. About 1810. F9075 ©Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (Tyne and Wear Museums)

This site is updated regularly: 10/09/11
"Web-control: G.Ingram