The memory of the poet William Blake can be found, maybe slightly oddly underneath the railway arches in Waterloo
A collection of large mosaics were installed in the railway arches at Centaur Street, which are more usually filled with rubbish and pigeon poo, over a period of 7 years by Southbank Mosaics with Future’s Theatre and Southbank Sinfonia supported by Heritage Lottery.
The location is surprisingly apt though, as William Blake lived nearby from 1890-1800 in the a decade that is often thought to be his most productive years. It’s when he started work on Jerusalem, which is today far better known for the Hymn than the original book — even though in fact, the hymn Jerusalem uses text from one of Blake’s other books. The title of the book and the Hymn are coincidental.
But, 200 years after he moved here, a project was set up to decorate the railway arches in his memory, and now a decade or so later, most of them are still there, rather dusty now, seemingly slightly forgotten, but that’s part of their appeal.
They are not art that shouts or demands attention in a public space. Hidden down inside passages that few choose to walk through, it’s happy to simply be spied out of the corner of eyes of people hurrying through the arches to cleaner places.
You are required to seek out the art down here in its dark lair.
Although relatively obscure during his lifetime, William Blake has become one of the most popular English artists and writers, through poems such as “The Tyger” and “Jerusalem,” and images including The Ancient of Days. Less well-known is Blake’s radical religious and political temperament and that his visionary art was created to express a personal mythology that sought to recreate an entirely new approach to philosophy and art. This book examines both Blake’s visual and poetic work over his long career, from early engravings and poems to his final illustrations, to Dante and the Book of Job. Divine Images further explores Blake’s immense popular appeal and influence after his death, offering an inspirational look at a pioneering figure.
William Blake critiqued the Enlightenment, industrialization, and the expansion of the British empire. His work shines at the Tate as the shadows of Brexit loom.
With England at a critical juncture in terms of national identity, the time seems right for a retrospective of William Blake’s artwork. The seminal poet of the Romantic Age famously cautioned against the expansion of the British empire, the Enlightenment, and mass industrialization. But his paintings, prints, and drawings had almost as much to say, and now, as Brexit freshly looms, the Tate Britain is displaying more than three hundred such works in a show billed as the largest exhibit of his art in more than a generation.
William Blake runs at the Tate Britain through February 2, 2020, and it doesn’t disappoint. Indeed, it opens with Blake’s iconic Albion Rose, which depicts a pristine white figure posed after Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. He stands on a rock, arms outstretched, backlit by rays of gold, fiery Continue reading →
Catherine Blake brought out of shadows in exhibition also featuring artist’s self-portrait
William Blake’s wife, Catherine, is to be brought out of the shadows and celebrated as a lifelong creative influence, in the largest exhibition in a generation devoted to an artist believed by many to be one of Britain’s greatest.
Tate Britain has announced details of its big autumn Blake show, bringing together more than 300 works. It will include the first UK display of a piece thought to be Blake’s only self-portrait, and the recreation of a solo exhibition he staged in 1809 that he hoped would bring him fame and fortune. Sadly, only a handful of people turned up.
There will also be watercolours from a hoard of 19 works lost for 165 years and found in 2001 in a Glasgow secondhand bookshop. Two book dealers bought them for £50 each; the set was later controversially broken up and sold for $7m.
Curators said Catherine, Blake’s lifelong companion, would feature heavily in the exhibition. “It is only in the last 15 years that Catherine as a huge stabilising, supporting and level-headed influence on Blake’s art and his domestic life has really come to the fore,” said Amy Concannon, a co-curator of the show.
On a practical level she made sure the family did not descend into poverty, always keeping a certain amount of money hidden in the house and occasionally serving her husband an empty dinner plate to buck his ideas up.
But she also coloured his prints and was a hugely important creative force in his life, said Martin Myrone, another co-curator.
Blake was an artist ahead of his time, unappreciated for much of his life. A pivotal moment came in 1809 when Blake staged a show of his own work in a drawing room above the family hosiery business in Soho. “This was Blake’s attempt to take control of the presentation of his work and to be taken seriously as a painter of historical subjects,” said Concannon.
He included fantastical paintings showing Lord Nelson directing a sea monster and the prime minister William Pitt as an angel guiding Behemoth. They would have baffled people at the time, and in any event hardly anyone came and not a single work was sold. Soon afterwards Blake retreated from the world.
Fortunately, he compiled a lengthy catalogue for the show, in which he talked about wanting people to recognise “real art”, and it will allow curators to recreate the domestic Georgian room in the Tate Britain show.
early two centuries after his death, the final resting place of William Blake (1757 – 1827) is about to be marked with a gravestone. The remains of the poet-painter lie in a common grave under an anonymous patch of grass in Bunhill Fields cemetery, just outside the City of London.On 12 August, myself and fellow trustees of the Blake Society will unveil a new ledger stone on the site, exquisitely carved by leading stonecutter Lida Cardozo. The ceremony will be open to all.
I’m hoping Bunhill Fields will be filled with people on that day, because I believe that, though Blake is long dead, he is still the finest poet of liberty and the human potential, and we need his work to awaken the dissenting imagination more than ever.
This is not how Blake is usually seen today. Most people tend to think of him as bucolic, and otherworldly, painting mystic visions of angels in Heaven while opposing the Industrial Revolution on Earth. A sort of patron saint of hippies, peaceniks and eco-warriors.
For me, nothing could be further from the truth. I think today is an apposite time to honour Blake because our present illiberal, censorious and conformist era shares many parallels with the period in which he lived [ . . . ]