The largest William Blake exhibition in 20 years comes to London this autumn, celebrating the work of a singular artistic talent.
Known best for his poetry, including And did those feet in ancient time, and The Tyger, Blake was also a skilled and prolific artist.
Unfortunately, his ill-fated exhibition of 1809 held above his family’s hosiery shop in Soho, meant he was never lauded by the public in his time.
This September, Tate Britain hopes to rectify this, by exhibiting over 300 original watercolours, paintings and prints — as well as recreating the cramped domestic room in which Blake put his reputation on the line.
The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan and The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth are digitally enlarged and projected onto a gallery wall — on the huge scale that Blake intended them to be painted.
Nearby, the original artworks are displayed in a re-staging of Blake’s failed exhibition. We’ve a feeling that this time, the works will be received somewhat differently.
The exhibition opens with Albion Rose — Blake’s incandescent visualisation of the mythical founding of Britain.
A section is dedicated to Blake’s illuminated books such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), his best-known work as a radical poet — and something still taught in schools today.
Other highlights include Newton (which you may recognise as the direct inspiration for Eduardo Paolozzi’s Newton statue outside the British Library) and Ghost of a Flea, which was inspired by a séance-induced vision.
The exhibition culminates with The Ancient of Days 1827, a frontispiece for an edition of Europe: A Prophecy, completed only days before Blake’s death.
Elsewhere, William Blake: The Artist focuses on London, the city in which he was born, and whose burgeoning metropolis was a constant inspiration. Another inspiration was Blake’s wife, Catherine, who offered both practical assistance and became an unacknowledged hand in the production of his engravings and illuminated books.
William Blake: The Artist is at Tate Britain from 11 September 2019-2 February 2020. Tickets £18 (£17 concessions) available now.