PREVIEW: William Blake: The Artist, Tate Britain

On display from the 11th September, Tate Britain’s exhibition will focus on revealing the artist behind the poet.

William Blake (1757-1827)
Newton1795 – c. 1805
Colour print, ink and watercolour on paper
460 x 600 mm

Tate Britain will present a large survey of work by William Blake, bringing together some of his most iconic images that has inspired artists, musicians, writers and performers for over two centuries.

This new exhibition celebrating the artist’s work will feature over 300 remarkable and rarely seen works and will offer visitors a chance to rediscover Blake as a visual artist for the 21st century.

As part of the exhibition, his The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan c.1805-9 and The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth c.1805 will be digitally enlarged and projected onto the gallery wall on the huge scale that Blake originally imagined. Meanwhile, the original artworks will be displayed nearby in a restaging of Blake’s ill-fated exhibition of 1809, the artist’s only significant attempt to create a public reputation for himself as a painter. Tate Britain will also be recreating  the domestic room above his family hosiery shop in which the show was held, allowing visitors to encounter the paintings exactly as people did in 1809.

William Blake: The Artist will also provide  vivid biographical framework in which to consider Blake’s life and work. There will be focus on  on London, the city in which he was born and lived for most of his life as well as the vital presence of his wife Catherine who offered both practical assistance and became an unacknowledged hand in the production of his engravings and illuminated books. 

Additional highlights of the exhibition will be a selection of works from the Royal Collection and some of his best-known paintings including Newton 1795-c.1805 and Ghost of a Flea c.1819-20. This intricate work was inspired by a séance-induced vision and will be shown alongside a rarely seen preliminary sketch. The exhibition will close with The Ancient of Days 1827, a frontispiece for an edition of Europe: A Prophecy, completed only days before the artist’s death.

The exhibition will be curated by Martin Myrone, Lead Curator pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon Assistant Curator, British Art 1790-1850. 

William Blake: The Artist will be on display at Tate Britain from the 11th September until the 2nd February 2020.

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