Experience the largest survey of work by William Blake in the UK for a generation.
A visionary painter, printmaker and poet, Blake (1757-1827) created some of the most iconic images in the history of British art and has remained an inspiration to artists, musicians, writers and performers worldwide for over two centuries. This ambitious exhibition will bring together over 300 remarkable and rarely seen works and rediscover Blake as a visual artist for the 21st century.
Tate Britain will reimagine the artist’s work as he intended it to be experienced. Blake’s art was a product of his tumultuous times, with revolution, war and progressive politics acting as the crucible of his unique imagination, yet he struggled to be understood and appreciated during his life. Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist and envisioned vast frescos that were never realised. For the first time, The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan (c1805-9) and The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth (c1805) will be digitally enlarged and projected onto the gallery wall on the huge scale that Blake imagined. 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.
The exhibition will open with Albion Rose (c1793), an exuberant visualisation of the mythical founding of Britain, created in contrast to the commercialisation, austerity and crass populism of the times. A section of the exhibition will also be dedicated to his illuminated books such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794), his central achievement as a radical poet.
Additional highlights will include a selection of works from the Royal Collection and some of his best-known paintings including Newton (1795-c1805) and Ghost of a Flea (c1819-20). 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.