Oil on canvas
170 x 210cm
Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air (1774–86) is a six-volume work published by 18th-century British polymath Joseph Priestley which reports a series of his experiments on "airs" or gases, most notably his discovery of oxygen gas.
Through his studies he attempted to scientifically explain the origin of Will-o’-the-Wisps (fairy lights) and proposed that they were a natural electrical phenomena (like lightening) interacting with marsh gas.
In this painting we see Joseph Priestley as he carefully examines a Will-o’-the-Wisp to determine it’s nature, while four smaller types of air rest in a nearby tray.