British artist Joseph Thraves worked predominantly as a portrait artist during the first half of the 19th century. A self-taught artist, Thraves lived and worked in and around the area surrounding his hometown of Sandiacre, Derby
In the remaining examples of his works, Thraves demonstrates a keen eye for proportions. An image of a young boy depicted scholarly, studious, with his hand resting on an open book, has a clean, sharp quality. His skin is smooth in its youthfulness, his cheeks tinged with just the right amount of rosiness as to suggest good health. His clothing is smart, his whole stature suggesting the refined gentleman he will become. It seems likely he would have hailed from a family prospering from the industrial revolution, which was significantly altering Derby. Such families desired portraits of their members in order to make a statement about their growth of stature and status within society.
There would surely have been a flourishing market for Thraves to take advantage of. Records also show him lending his skills to the decoration of an altarpiece in a church in the neighbouring Stanton-by-Dale. The figures of Christ and his disciples were much praised as ‘a very creditable specimen of the skill of a self-taught painter.’ Indeed, reference is made to Thraves lacking access to education and opportunity which might have furthered his artistic career. It was a ‘regret’ that ‘his native talent has not had a fairer field for its cultivation.’ It seems Thraves could have grown far beyond Derby had he had the chance in life.
Nonetheless, an example does remain of his work being reproduced in print and disseminated in the mass printing press. An image by Thraves of the boxer Ben Caunt (1815-1861) was reproduced and published in London. This, therefore, suggests some success for Thraves out of the bounds of his home county. This being said, the achievement of local renown should not be understated or diminished in comparison to national acclaim. Clearly Thraves possessed a natural talent, and this, above all else, should be remembered.
Born in Derbyshire, Britain.
Married Hannah Goff.
Died in Sandiacre, Derbyshire, Britain.