A reinstallation at the Rosenbach on 27 February 2022, featuring (left to right) Jen Tanglao, collections stewardship assistant; Blake, The Number of the Beast Is 666; and Jobi Zink, registrar. Image: Judy M. Guston, curator and senior director of collections.

Blake and Exhibitions, 2022

Luisa Calè (l.cale@bbk.ac.uk), Birkbeck, University of London, works on practices of reading, viewing, and collecting in the Romantic period. Her publications include Fuseli’s Milton Gallery: “Turning Readers into Spectators”; co-edited volumes on Dante on View: The Reception of Dante in the Visual and Performing Arts and Illustrations, Optics and Objects in Nineteenth-Century Literary and Visual Cultures; and special issues on “The Disorder of Things” (Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2011), “The Nineteenth-Century Digital Archive” (19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 2015), “Literature and Sculpture at the Fin de Siècle” (Word and Image, 2018), and “Sibylline Leaves” (Studies in Romanticism, 2020). Her current project, entitled The Book Unbound, explores practices of collecting and dismantling the book, with chapters on Walpole, Blake, and Dickens. She is the exhibitions editor for Blake.

Continuing effects of COVID-19 disruption included delayed and sometimes reduced displays to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death (Fogg Art Museum; Simon Fraser University; University of Melbourne) and delayed rehangs of works kept in storage after exhibitions or during renovations. In February 2022 the Rosenbach celebrated the rehang of The Number of the Beast Is 666 after a period of rest since its loan to the Blake retrospective at Tate Britain in 2019–​20. In May Glasgow Museums reinstalled Eve Naming the Birds and Adam Naming the Beasts in the main corridor of Pollok House following storage to protect the works from environmental conditions. Displays featuring treasures from permanent collections included the incipit of Vala, or The Four Zoas at the British Library and Milton at the New York Public Library. Building the Bookman’s Paradise, an exhibition reconstructing plans and showcasing treasures at the Morgan Library, included two Job watercolors among early medieval and Renaissance illuminations and modern treasures.

The World of Stonehenge at the British Museum gave Blake pride of place as the only non-ancient presence chosen to illuminate the continuing fascination with stone circles and early druidic subject matter, generating a series of formal and thematic associations between his inventions and ancient items and prompting speculation about how ancient objects activate utopian or dystopian visions for the present and the future at different times in history.

Formalist approaches considered Blake’s works in the histories of different media. Huntington curator Melinda McCurdy made a case for including the color print Hecate, or The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy among 100 Great British Drawings, while Saint Paul Preaching at Athens featured in the Rhode Island School of Design’s exploration of 400 years of drawing. In addition to Scene through Wood, on tour from the Ashmolean, Blake’s position in a lineage of wood engraving was explored in Bethan Stevens’s exhibition about nineteenth-century commercial illustration: The Woodpecking Factory: Victorian Illustrations by the Brothers Dalziel.

Through the juxtaposition of the Cincinnati copy of The Book of Thel to a Tolkien drawing, Blake’s illuminated printing appeared as a source in J. R. R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript at Marquette University. A bequest of Maurice Sendak designs to the Morgan Library & Museum prompted a reconsideration of Sendak’s engagement with Blake. While previous exhibitions concentrated on illustrations, Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet showed Blake and a range of other sources, including Mantegna, as inspirations for Sendak’s intermedial invention, from his children’s book Outside Over There to his stage sets and costume designs.

Blake’s place among his contemporaries included a consideration—​in Tate Britain’s Poetical Bodies—​of how academic training was tested by visionary subjects, while his engraving after Fuseli of “Head of a Damned Soul in Dante’s Inferno” featured in Füssli, entre rêve et fantastique, a Parisian exhibition that inflected Fuseli’s demonic imagination through Victor Hugo’s focus on blindness and darkness. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery focused on Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, reconstructing the aesthetic world of the critic, collector, artist, and convict and setting examples of Blake works he is known to have owned next to Old Master prints and contemporary painters.

The Getty Center's Reinventing the Américas: Construct. Erase. Repeat brought Blake’s engravings for Stedman’s Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana into dialogue with a colonial archive of European encounters with America.

Treasures of the British Library, Literature Display Sir John Ritblat Gallery, British Library, London
Summer 2018–​January 2023

Vala, or The Four Zoas was displayed among highlights from the British Library literary collections with a caption presenting Vala as “the female counterpart of Luvah” and explaining that Night the First “opens with ‘The Song of the Aged Mother which shook the heavens with wrath.’ The power of women, love and jealousy are key themes in this work which Blake ultimately abandoned after a period of depression.”

Vala, or The Four Zoas (c. 1797–​1807)
British Library, Add MS 39764, f. 2

Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet (curated by Rachel Federman) Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 14 June–​6 October 2019 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 16 June–​11 September 2022 Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, 7 October 2022–​8 January 2023

Catalogue: Federman, Rachel. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet. New York: Morgan Library & Museum, 2019.

This touring exhibition documented Sendak’s corpus as an opera, ballet set, and costume designer through over 100 studies, storyboards, dioramas, and costumes for Mozart’s Magic Flute (1978–​80), Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges (1982), Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcraker (1983–​2013), and Where the Wild Things Are (1980, 1984), and displayed some of the works that inspired him. It celebrated the Sendak bequest to the Morgan, where it was first mounted, from June to October 2019.

In a talk delivered at the Gardner Museum in 1991, Sendak mentioned Andrea Mantegna’s The Virgin and Child with Infant Saint John the Baptist and Six Female Saints (1497–​1500) as a source for the rock formations in his designs for The Magic Flute.Wall caption, Gardner Museum. Tiepolo’s drawings inspired designs for The Love for Three Oranges. The Morgan catalogue also documents Sendak’s eclectic sources, including Philipp Otto Runge’s “Times of Day” (1805) and the Piccolomini Breviary (c. 1475) for The Magic Flute and Caspar David Friedrich and Samuel Palmer for Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, which are not included in the Gardner list of exhibits.Rachel Federman, Drawing the Curtain 64-65, 127-28. Federman’s contributions to the catalogue associate Blake with Sendak’s Outside Over There, suggesting an analogy between the girl playing her wonder-horn to subdue goblins and his contemporary work on Mozart’s Magic Flute as a point of transition from children’s books to the world of the opera.Federman, Drawing the Curtain 15. Sendak acknowledged going to the Morgan and perusing Blake’s illustrations to Milton’s “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso” through a magnifying glass in search of color inspiration. Federman argues that Blake’s influence can be detected in “the sinuous forms and overt sensuality of several early drawings for The Magic Flute.”Federman, Drawing the Curtain 62, citing Sendak from Jonathan Cott, Pipers at the Gates of Dawn: The Wisdom of Children’s Literature (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985) 73-74. In Blake’s Job watercolor of Behemoth and Leviathan she identifies a source for the costume design for the serpent pursuing Tamino, and she associates Milton’s Mysterious Dream with Sendak’s rainbow in the backdrop of the Temple of the Sun. This line of influence was explored in an exhibition of drawings from Outside Over There and The Magic Flute at the Morgan in 1981, which “coincided with exhibitions of Blake’s watercolours and Mozart’s manuscripts.”Federman, Drawing the Curtain 65.

The 2022 display at the Gardner Museum made its case about Blake in a wall hang titled “Sendak and the Old Masters,” where Milton’s Mysterious Dream and Behemoth and Leviathan were juxtaposed to Tamino’s serpent and Scene Design for Arrival of Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute, followed by Mantegna.

Sendak and the Old Masters (see enlargement): Blake, Milton’s Mysterious Dream and Behemoth and Leviathan (both Morgan Library & Museum); Sendak, Scene Design for Arrival of Queen of the Night, Act 1, Scene 1 and The Serpent (both 1980, for Mozart’s Magic Flute; Morgan Library & Museum); and Mantegna, The Virgin and Child with Infant Saint John the Baptist and Six Female Saints (c. 1497–​1500; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum).
Image: © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Sendak works are © The Maurice Sendak Foundation.

The Goblin (c. 1816–​20)
Morgan Library & Museum, 1949.4:5

Milton’s Mysterious Dream (c. 1816–​20)
Morgan Library & Museum, 1949.4:11

Behemoth and Leviathan (c. 1805–​06)
Morgan Library & Museum, 2001.77

Paradise Lost: Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (curated by Jane Stewart) Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
11 June–​3 October 2021

Catalogue: Stewart, Jane, with Peter Hughes and Jacobus van Breda. Paradise Lost: Thomas Griffiths Wainewright. Hobart: Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 2021.

Dandy, art critic, collector, forger, poisoner, and convict Thomas Griffiths Wainewright (1794–​1847) was a great contemporary collector of Blake.On Wainewright’s collection, which included Songs, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, For Children: The Gates of Paradise, America, Europe, Jerusalem, Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, and Robert Blair’s The Grave, see A Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library of the Late George Edward Griffiths … the Property of a Well Known Amateur of the Fine Arts (London: Wheatley, 1831); Marc Vaulbert de Chantilly, “Property of a Distinguished Poisoner: Thomas Griffiths Wainewright and the Griffiths Family Library,” Under the Hammer: Book Auctions since the Seventeenth Century, ed. Robin Myers, Michael Harris, and Giles Mandelbrote (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2001) 111-42. This exhibition situated examples of some of the Blake works that he owned within his wider aesthetic world, reconstructing their site-specific inflections in what used to be the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land. Wainewright published essays in the London Magazine under the pseudonyms Cornelius van Vinkbooms and Janus Weathercock, including an early mention of Jerusalem in “Mr. Weathercock’s Private Correspondence” in 1820.“Mr. Weathercock’s Private Correspondence,” London Magazine (Sept. 1820): 300: “Talking of articles, my learned friend Dr. Tobias Ruddicombe, M. D. is, at my earnest entreaty, casting a tremendous piece of ordnance,—​an eighty-eight pounder! which he proposeth to fire off in your next. It is an account of an ancient, newly discovered, illuminated manuscript, which has to name ‘Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion!!!’ It contains a good deal anent one ‘Los,’ who, it appears, is now, and hath been, from the creation, the sole and fourfold dominator of the celebrated city of Golgonooza! The doctor assures me that the redemption of mankind hangs on the universal diffusion of the doctrines broached in this M.S.” Wainewright owned Jerusalem copy B; see G. E. Bentley, Jr., “William Blake and His Circle: A Checklist of Publications and Discoveries in 2001,” Blake 36.1 (summer 2002): 6. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery took one of Van Vinkbooms’s Dogmas for Dilettanti, entitled “The Amateur’s Boudoir, or a Visit to Janus,” describing “his boudoir, The Argument of his Collection,” as a point of departure for their reconstruction of the room, “an octagon of about thirteen feet diameter, and full sixteen in height; into which the light streams through rosy panes in the dome top—​other windows it hath none. … Two doors hath it, concealed with bright blue silk drapery, bordered with crimson velvet and barbaric fringe.” The exhibition’s version of the room included details taken from his description of the adjoining small conservatory, “covered with a very rich crimson French paper, formed into pannels [sic] and compartments with gold mouldings.”“C. Van Vinkbooms, His Dogmas for Dilettanti. No. III. The Amateur’s Boudoir, or a Visit to Janus,” London Magazine (Dec. 1821): 656, 658-59. Prized treasures in the amateur’s boudoir were evoked through objects sourced from the museum’s collection: armor, stone fragments, cameos, and intaglios placed in a vitrine at the center of the room. Instead of specimens from the thousands of prints by Italian and Flemish Old Masters that Wainewright owned, the museum decided to hang Blake’s engravings of Dante.

Wainewright’s relationship with Blake was in focus in an adjacent room titled “The Collector, Connoisseur and Critic.” This section included the Job engravings from the Tyler Collection (University of Tasmania) and a colored copy of Blake’s book illustrations to Edward Young’s The Complaint, and the Consolation; or, Night Thoughts (1797), on loan from the National Gallery of Victoria. (Other items in the exhibition were from South Australia, New South Wales, and Auckland; loans from the UK could not be fulfilled because of COVID.) The same room also featured engravings after Old Masters that Wainewright wrote about (Correggio, Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo).

The source of Wainewright’s family wealth was presented in a smaller gallery, off limits to minors, featuring a series of 1880 illustrations to John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748–​49), a work published by Wainewright’s grandfather Ralph Griffiths and his brother Fenton Griffiths. The exhibition also included portraits of Wainewright’s cousins Henry and Edward Foss, a dealer in historic books and manuscripts and a solicitor, respectively; Edward was one of the trustees of a trust from which Wainewright forged checks in 1822 and 1824. The discovery of those crimes years later precipitated his arrest and removal from England to the penal colony.

Wainewright’s change in fortune was conveyed through the changing color scheme of the rooms. Dark violet and gray tones set off his own paintings placed next to those of Royal Academy professor of painting and keeper Henry Fuseli, whom Wainewright described as “the god of my worship.”Listen to Jane Stewart Speak about the Life of Convict Artist, Thomas Griffiths Wainewright,” friendsoftmag.org.au (1 July 2021), accessed 29 June 2023. His debt to Fuseli was documented through juxtapositions such as Fuseli’s Eve from the Milton Gallery next to Wainewright’s watercolors depicting Lothaire of Bourgogne (from Barante’s Histoire des ducs de Bourgogne) and The Reunion of Eros and Psyche, which he painted in 1843—​themes from the 1820s recreated in smaller scale when he was a convict in the 1840s.

The space of the convict’s cell was recreated as an octagonal form that mirrored the shape of the boudoir, a source for the octagonal room in which Dorian Gray sleeps in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. The final gallery exhibited portraits that Wainewright painted as a convict in Hobart, where he was deported in 1837 and died in 1847. Like a previous display of artworks by another convict, Thomas Bock (c. 1793–​1855), this exhibition reconstructed the legacies and art-historical genealogies of early nineteenth-century convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, tracing the global trajectories of works in the museum’s collection.

Blake’s Illustrations of Dante (seven engravings) (1826–​27, printed 1955)
National Gallery of Victoria, 614.1-5 to 614.7-5

Illustrations of the Book of Job (1826)
University of Tasmania, Tyler Collection

The Complaint, and the Consolation; or, Night Thoughts (1797), colored copy Y
National Gallery of Victoria, P183-1989

Queen Katherine’s Dream,” proof for The Plays of William Shakespeare (1805)
National Gallery of Victoria, P49-1992

Light: Works from Tate’s Collection Museum of Art Pudong, Shanghai, 8 July–​14 November 2021 Buk-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, 21 December 2021–​8 May 2022 ACMI, Melbourne, 16 June–​13 November 2022

A survey of 200 years of artistic experimentation with light in drawing, printing, painting, photography, sculpture, the moving image, and contemporary immersive environments through more than seventy works, including Turner, Constable, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Kandinsky, Albers, Eliasson, Kusama, Dean, and Lijn.

The Good and Evil Angels (1795)
Tate, N05057

God Judging Adam (1795)
Tate, N05063

Polonsky Exhibition of the New York Public Library’s Treasures New York Public Library

The Polonsky Exhibition showcases treasures from the library’s 125 years of collecting. In 2022 Blake’s Milton was exhibited in the section dedicated to “The Written Word.”

Milton copy C (c. 1804–​11, printed c. 1811)
New York Public Library, Rare Book Division, *KL (Blake, W. Milton, a poem in 2 books)

Depicting Dante: The Divine Comedy in Book Art and Illustration Bennett Library, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
4 January–​31 March 2022

This exhibition, planned for Dante 700, was delayed to 2022 by the pandemic. It explored the Commedia’s impact on artists and writers over the centuries and was sourced from Special Collections and Rare Books at SFU, setting Blake’s designs within a canon including Botticelli, Doré, contemporary African artists, and a video game from the games collection at SFU Surrey.

Milton Klonsky, Blake’s Dante: The Complete Illustrations to the Divine Comedy (New York: Harmony Books, 1980)

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
22 January–​2 May 2022

These watercolors are a selection from plans to mark the seventh centenary of Dante’s death (2021) with a display, which was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: © Harvard Art Museums (see enlargement)

The Complaint of the Giant Nimrod (1824–​27)
Harvard Art Museums/​Fogg Museum, 1943.431

Dante and Virgil among the Blasphemers (1824–​27)
Harvard Art Museums/​Fogg Museum, 1943.433

Dante and Virgil in the Skiff of Phlegyas Are Hailed by Filippo Argenti (1824–​27)
Harvard Art Museums/​Fogg Museum, 1943.439

The Punishment of Rusticucci and His Companions (1824–​27)
Harvard Art Museums/​Fogg Museum, 1943.447

Poetical Bodies: Works on Paper by Blake and His Contemporaries (curated by David Blayney Brown, Amy Concannon, and Caroline Anjali Ritchie) Tate Britain, London
1 February–​10 April 2022

This exhibition situated Blake’s work among poetical bodies visualized by Romantic-period artists trained to copy from sculpture and draw live models at the Royal Academy of Arts. Through a selection of artworks by James Barry, John Hamilton Mortimer, Edward Dayes, Henry Fuseli, George Romney, Thomas Rowlandson, and J. M. W. Turner, Poetical Bodies explored how artists’ anatomical skills were applied to “unconventional, visionary scenes” and “intense emotional states,” capturing “gods, heroes, demons and monsters” as subjects of studies of “human form, movement, character and expression.”Information panel.

Image: © Tate (see enlargement)
Next to Barry’s etching “The Temptation of Adam” hung Blake’s large color prints Elohim Creating Adam and The House of Death, followed by Dayes’s watercolor The Fall of the Rebel Angels and Barry’s “Satan, Sin, and Death.” The adjoining wall featured biblical watercolors that Blake painted for Thomas Butts: Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop: The Humility of the Saviour (Luke 2:51); The River of Life (Rev. 22:1-2); David Delivered out of Many Waters (Ps. 18:4, 10, 16); Satan in His Original Glory: “Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee” (Ezek. 28:14-15); and The Four and Twenty Elders Casting Their Crowns before the Divine Throne (Rev. 4:2-11). Two designs from The [First] Book of Urizen without the accompanying text hung in the center of a wall inaugurated by Barry’s etching “Philoctetes in the Island of Lemnos,” Turner’s A Kneeling Male Nude with Upraised Head and Arm in a Landscape Setting, and two drawings by Mortimer, Monstrous Male Figure, Caliban? and Study of a Classical Statue. While these works provided context for the male form in “Oh! Flames of Furious Desires” (from Urizen plate 3), “Teach these Souls to Fly” (Urizen plate 2) was set against depictions of female subjects: Romney’s Serena in the Boat of Apathy, inspired by William Hayley’s Triumphs of Temper (1781), and Fuseli’s The Debutante. The wall hang then proceeded with subjects that Blake engraved after Fuseli for Charles Allen’s History of England (1798).

Taken together, the poetical corpus selected for this exhibition contributed to continuing investigations into Blake and Fuseli and his circle, the heroic in modernity, and the idioms of academic training that Tate Britain explored in Gothic Nightmares (2006) and in the first room of the Blake retrospective of 2019–​20, and that are documented in Martin Myrone’s Bodybuilding (2005) and Making the Modern Artist (2020).

David Delivered out of Many Waters (c. 1805)
Tate, N02230

Teach these Souls to Fly,” Urizen plate 2 (?1796)
Tate, N03696

Elohim Creating Adam (1795–​c. 1805)
Tate, N05055

The House of Death (1795–​c. 1805)
Tate, N05060

Oh! Flames of Furious Desires,” Urizen plate 3 (watercolor)
Tate, N05190

Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop: The Humility of the Saviour (copy of the original at the New Art Gallery Walsall)
Tate, N05193

The Soul Hovering over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life (c. 1805)
Tate, N05300

Satan in His Original Glory: “Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee” (c. 1805)
Tate, N05892

The Four and Twenty Elders Casting Their Crowns before the Divine Throne (c. 1803–​05)
Tate, N05897

Alfred and the Neat-Herd’s Wife,” Charles Allen, History of England (1798)
Tate, T06586

Wat Tyler and the Tax-Gatherer,” Charles Allen, History of England (1798)
Tate, T06588

Scene through Wood: A Century of Modern Wood Engraving Dorset Museum, Dorchester, 9 February–​2 May 2022
Scene through Wood Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner, 10 September–​11 December 2022
Scene through Wood: A Century of Wood Engraving St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington, 25 February–​22 April 2023

This touring exhibition curated by Anne Desmet RA for display at the Ashmolean in 2020 was discussed in “Blake and Exhibitions, 2020,” Blake 55.1 (summer 2021).

The World of Stonehenge (curated by Jennifer Wexler and Neil Wilkin) British Museum, London
17 February–​17 July 2022

Catalogue: Garrow, Duncan, and Neil Wilkin. The World of Stonehenge. London: British Museum, 2022.

Blake’s works were the only non-ancient objects in this exhibition featuring the timber columns of Seahenge from the Norfolk shore (2049 BCE), axes, idols, the Nebra Sky Disc on loan from Germany, a carved standing stone from Italy (c. 2500 BCE), and human remains and other relics of combat from Germany and Salisbury Plain.Jonathan Jones, “The World of Stonehenge Review—​Even the Stone Axes Amaze,” Guardian (14 Feb. 2022); Jennifer Wexler, “An Introduction to Stonehenge,” British Museum blog (7 Dec. 2021), accessed 5 June 2023.

Image: © Trustees of the British Museum (see enlargement)
Blake was placed at the end, in a section titled “The Last of the Light,” as testimony that “Stonehenge stands not for a landscape, region or even country, but for the generations of people who have made meaning from an enduring place in a changing world.”Section introduction panel. This display included two gold pendants from 1000–​800 BCE: one from County Kildare, Ireland, and another from the Shropshire Marches with a sun image that “gathers and shimmers with reflected light.” A wall label, “Reimagining Stonehenge,” presented Blake’s takes on the stone circle in “‘England’s green and pleasant land’ … once connected with peoples of the biblical Old Testament”: “both a temple of rationality and religious cruelty” and evidence of “the determination and belief needed to achieve idealistic social change and spiritual renewal in a New Jerusalem.” “Albion Rose” was represented by the color-printed version produced for Ozias Humphry around 1794–​96, which is one of the loose plates associated with the so-called Large Book of Designs, but the exhibition took its caption heading from an inscription on a later state of the plate: “Albion rose from where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc’d the dance of Eternal Death.” The inscription is from c. 1803–​10,National Gallery of Art catalogue entry, following David Bindman, assisted by Deirdre Toomey, The Complete Graphic Works of William Blake (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1978) no. 400; the Blake Archive dates this state to c. 1820–​25. though Blake himself signed “WB inv 1780”, an act of backdating that marks his recurrent engagement with the design. The wall text explained that “Ancient Albion represents humanity and Britain breaking free of the bonds of corruption, imperialism and social injustices, and returning the country to its ancient glory.” Plate 100 of Jerusalem came next, captioned with the claim that “Blake connects monuments of the deep past with a fair and just society, by imagining the building of a New Jerusalem in ‘England’s green and pleasant land,’”Referring to Blake’s preface to Milton (E 96). while plate 70 marked the use of Stonehenge “to condemn cruel religious practices and the rationalism of Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and John Locke for undermining an older and simpler Christian faith.”Explaining Blake’s words “Sons of Albion … combine into Three Forms, named Bacon & Newton & Locke” (E 224). The last exhibit, “A bearded nude male (probably Urizen) crouching in a heavenly sphere, 1794,” known under the title “The Ancient of Days,” chimed with the sun pendants displayed earlier to articulate the cosmic coordinates of Stonehenge. The caption explained that “in Blake’s alternative to the Bible’s Book of Genesis, an account of the creation of the world, Stonehenge is built by Urizen, a god-like character associated with the evil of reason and the banishment of the original chaos of Eden. The sun was equated with the blazing power of the imagination to create a fairer, better world.” At the end of the exhibition, writing on the wall invited visitors to take on the legacy of Stonehenge through the words of archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes: “Every age has the Stonehenge it deserves—​or desires.”Jacquetta Hawkes, “God in the Machine,” Antiquity 41, no. 163 (1967): 174-80, on 174.

Image: © Trustees of the British Museum (see enlargement)

Albion Rose(1794–​96),The Blake Archive dates this impression to 1795 (see the copy information for Large Book copy A), following Joseph Viscomi, “Blake’s ‘Annus Mirabilis’: The Productions of 1795,” Blake 41.2 (fall 2007): 52-83. identified as plate 1 in the series A Large Book of Designs copy A
British Museum, 1856,0209.417

Jerusalem copy A (1804–​c. 1820, printed c. 1820), plate 100
British Museum, 1847,0318.93.100

Jerusalem copy A (1804–​c. 1820, printed c. 1820), plate 70
British Museum, 1847,0318.93.70

The Ancient of Days,” Europe copy D (1794), frontispiece
British Museum, 1859,0625.72

Paesaggi e personaggi della Commedia: un’iconografia digitale [Landscapes and Characters from the Commedia: A Digital Iconography] Piccole Cisterne Romane, Fermo
25 February–​27 March 2022

This installation restaged the “ghost of the Commedia” in an immersive digital experience within the Roman cisterns in Fermo, Marche, Italy. The ancient setting shifted the terms of a digital iconography experiment originally designed as a conclusion to the exhibition La biblioteca di Dante [Dante’s Library] in the library of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome in 2021–​22.The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei exhibition was reviewed in “Blake and Exhibitions, 2021,” Blake 56.1 (summer 2022). This multisensorial and multimedial adaptation animated digital facsimiles of historic illustrations to the Commedia, including some of Blake’s designs—​The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies and the Suicides; Ulysses and Diomed Swathed in the Same Flame; Ugolino Relating His Death; and Purgatorio IV.

Moving the projections from the library to the Roman vaults enhanced both the ghostly effects of Dante’s journey to the world of the dead and the use of contemporary technology as a portal to other times. Viewers were invited to put their heads inside black boxes to experience the Commedia through visual dramaturgy as a series of digital sight and sound stations, a contemporary take on theatrical ghost displays. The stations were turned into immersive “phonospheres” with the addition of music and sounds directed by ethnomusicologist and video artist Francesco De Melis. Translating episodes from Dante into sight and sound was part of the widening participation strategy of the Central Institute for Immaterial Heritage of the Culture Ministry (ICPI), in collaboration with OpenLab Company, for the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.See “In mostra a Fermo Dante in versione immersiva,” laprovinciadifermo.com (25 Feb. 2022), accessed 29 June 2023.

Epic and Divine: Dante’s World Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne
3 March–​26 June 2022

A display to mark the Dante septuacentennial, featuring works by Botticelli, Blake, Doré, Dalì, and local artists Sydney Nolan, Bruno Leti, and Angela Cavalieri.

The Inscription over Hell-Gate (facsimile)
Illustrations to the Divine Comedy of Dante by William Blake (National Art-Collections Fund, 1922)
University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections, 769.942 B636

“The Six-Footed Serpent Attacking Agnolo Brunelleschi” (facsimile)
Blake’s Illustrations of Dante: Seven Plates Designed and Engraved by W. Blake (Trianon Press for the William Blake Trust, 1978)
University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections, 37E/1

“The Circle of the Lustful: Francesca da Rimini” (facsimile)
Blake’s Illustrations of Dante: Seven Plates Designed and Engraved by W. Blake (Trianon Press for the William Blake Trust, 1978)
University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections, 37E/1

Drawing Closer: Four Hundred Years of Drawing from the RISD Museum (curated by Jamie Gabbarelli) Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence 12 March–​4 September 2022

Catalogue: Bate, Dominic. “Cat. 65 William Blake.” Drawing Closer: Four Hundred Years of Drawing from the RISD Museum. Ed. Jamie Gabbarelli. Providence: RISD Museum, 2021. Last modified 1 March 2022.

This exhibition presented works from the RISD Museum collection, which was gathered “to teach and inspire the next generations of artists and makers,” in order to focus on materials and techniques “during [the] first 400 years of drawing on paper” in Europe, 1500s–​1800s. Dominic Bate’s catalogue entry references Blake’s biblical source (Acts 17:22-34), notes the Raphael cartoon as potential inspiration, and compares the pose of St. Paul with Blake’s wash drawing Moses Receiving the Law. In the formal analysis of the painting, Bate contrasts how color is applied to the garments with the stippling technique used for the rays of light and the saint’s complexion.

Saint Paul Preaching at Athens (1803)
Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 31.280

The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 22 April–​3 July 2022 Kobe City Museum, 16 July–​25 September 2022 Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, 4 October–​20 November 2022

Catalogue: The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. Tokyo, 2022. 264 pp.

God Writing upon the Tables of the Covenant (c. 1805)
National Galleries of Scotland, D 2281
Exhibition cat., p. 149

The Woodpecking Factory: Victorian Illustrations by the Brothers Dalziel (curated by Bethan Stevens) British Museum, London
17 May–​4 September 2022

The Brothers Dalziel was the most successful wood-engraving firm of the Victorian period, c. 1839–​93. Its corpus encompassed commercial advertisements, newspaper illustrations, and scientific and literary illustrations ranging from Dickens to Tennyson’s Poems (1857), Lewis Carroll’s Alice (1865, 1871), and Trollope. The Dalziel firm employed the most successful artists of the time, including the Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Arthur Hughes, Frederic Leighton, and John Tenniel. This exhibition presented the findings of Bethan Stevens’s research on the Dalziel albums, an archive containing 54,000 proof wood engravings, catalogued thanks to funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The title of the project associates wood engraving with the organic activity of the woodpecker, a term captured by Walter Crane to reflect on his apprenticeship to W. J. Linton.Walter Crane, An Artist’s Reminiscences (New York: Macmillan, 1907) 48, cited in Bethan Stevens, The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait: The Dalziel Archive and Victorian Illustration (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022).

Blake’s title page to Songs of Innocence was selected as a point of comparison for Arthur Hughes’s frontispiece for Christina Rossetti’s Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (Routledge, 1872). The caption noted the Blakean iconography of Hughes’s composition, featuring a “nurse or maternal figure teaching under a tree,”Exhibition label; see also Stevens, The Wood Engravers’ Self-Portrait, drawing on Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Christina Rossetti and Illustration: A Publishing History (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2002) 102-04. and the contrast between Rossetti’s mass-produced book and the rarity of Songs, printed in a very small print run. The exhibition therefore shed light on Victorian inflections of Blake’s corpus and on his place in the context of Victorian wood engraving.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy B (1789, 1794), plate 3
British Museum, 1932,1210.4

J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library: Building the Bookman’s Paradise (curated by Christine Nelson and Jennifer Tonkovich) Morgan Library & Museum, New York
10 June–​18 September 2022

The Morgan displayed sketches and plans documenting the building of its McKim Library, as well as photographs of the collector and highlights from the collection. In addition to Blake’s Job watercolors, items included the manuscript of Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering (1814–​15), the Eliot Bible (1663), the Golden Gospels of Henry VIII (977–​93), the Lindau Gospels (c. 880–​90), a Gutenberg and Fust Bible (1454–​55), and the manuscript of George Sand’s Les dames vertes (c. 1859).

Job’s Sons and Daughters Overwhelmed by Satan (c. 1805–​06)
Morgan Library & Museum, 2001.65

When the Morning Stars Sang Together (c. 1805–​06)
Morgan Library & Museum, 2001.76

100 Great British Drawings (curated by Melinda McCurdy) Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino
18 June–​5 September 2022

Catalogue: Excursions of Imagination: 100 Great British Drawings from the Huntington’s Collection. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, 2022.

This exhibition included Blake’s color print Hecate, or The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy. Curator Melinda McCurdy explains in the catalogue that although it “is not technically a drawing … it belongs to a group of twelve large color prints that … have been called ‘color-printed drawings.’”Quoting Robert N. Essick, The Works of William Blake in the Huntington Collections: A Complete Catalogue (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1985) 201. For a discussion of Blake’s monoprints as color-printed paintings rather than color-printed drawings, see Joseph Viscomi, William Blake’s Printed Paintings: Methods, Origins, Meanings (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2021) 2-3, 24, 26, 44.

Hecate, or The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy (1795)
Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, 000.126
Exhibition cat., pp. 112-13

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript (curated by William M. Fliss and Sarah C. Schaefer) Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University
19 August–​23 December 2022

Catalogue: Fliss, William M., Sarah C. Schaefer, et al. J. R. R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript. Milwaukee: Haggerty Museum of Art, 2022.

Image: M. von Haselberg (see enlargement). The Tolkien works are © The Tolkien Trust.

The Book of Thel featured in a section entitled “Glimpsing Other-Worlds,” which exhibited works in which Tolkien is seen to work “in a primarily visual mode …. The images he crafted represent both connections to and divergences from familiar sources (medieval and modern).” Blake’s work exemplified the use of watercolor in a modern reinvention of a medium “used in medieval manuscript illumination, and which enjoyed renewed popularity in the nineteenth century with the industrial manufacturing of pigments and other painting tools.”Wall panel. In Blake, Tolkien found a model for the integration of text and image on the page.

Image: M. von Haselberg (see enlargement)
A late copy of Thel, on loan from the Cincinnati Art Museum, was displayed in a vitrine open to plate 4 to document Tolkien’s inspiration for the tree-framing motif in The Shores of Faery (1915) hanging next to the case.J. R. R. Tolkien, The Shores of Faery (10 May 1915), watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Tolkien Drawings 87, fol. 22r).

The Book of Thel copy N (composed 1789, printed c. 1818), plate 4 [Bentley; Erdman plate 2]
Cincinnati Art Museum, 1969.510.3

Reinventing the Américas: Construct. Erase. Repeat. (curated by Idurre Alonso with Denilson Baniwa) Getty Center, Los Angeles
23 August 2022–​8 January 2023

Building on Edmundo O’Gorman’s La invención de America (1958), the exhibition explored America as a European invention, “refram[ing] the colonial and nineteenth-century materials in the Getty Research Institute collections” and “counter[ing] the views of European chroniclers, illustrators, and printmakers from the 16th to 19th centuries by offering a multi-perspectival approach.” Contemporary responses to the collection’s colonial corpus included digital interventions on historic objects, video artworks, and a mural by indigenous artist Denilson Baniwa from the Amazonas state in Brazil, and commentary by “Latinx and Indigenous members of the Los Angeles community.” Among the themes explored were the allegory of America embodied as an indigenous naked woman, exotic wonders of nature, abundance and exploitation, and extraction resulting in forced labor and slavery.Information and quotations are from the wall panels and website introduction. John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana featured because its engravings “became some of the most widely reproduced pieces of antislavery art.”Gallery label.

“Inhuman Treatment of a Wounded Rebel Negro,”According to the gallery label, the two Blake prints are from Stedman, but this impression lacks Blake’s signature and the inscription reads “Inhuman Treatment of a Wounded Rebel Negro” rather than “Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave.” Curator Idurre Alonso reports that the prints “are part of the Tonatiúh and Electra Gutiérrez Collection,” which “was built by acquiring maps and prints at flea markets and from antiquarians mostly in México. There is nothing in the collection that can help identify what book [they were] taken from” (personal correspondence). John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana (?)
Getty Research Institute, P840001.80

“A Negro Hung Alive by the Ribs to a Gallows,” John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana (?)
Getty Research Institute, P840001.81

Füssli, entre rêve et fantastique [Fuseli, the Realm of Dreams and the Fantastic] (curated by Christopher Baker, Andreas Beyer, and Pierre Curie, with scenography by Hubert le Gall) Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris
16 September 2022–​23 January 2023

Catalogue: Baker, Christopher, Andreas Beyer, and Pierre Curie. Füssli, entre rêve et fantastique [Fuseli, the Realm of Dreams and the Fantastic]. Paris: Musée Jacquemart-André, 2022.

Blake’s engraving of “Head of a Damned Soul in Dante’s Inferno” (1789) reproduces an oil painting that Fuseli created in Rome (1770–​78). A smaller version of this head was engraved in reverse by Thomas Holloway as one of four heads from Dante’s Inferno for Johann Caspar Lavater’s Essays on Physiognomy (1789–​98). The catalogue entry suggests that Blake’s much larger plate, on view in the exhibition, “was probably destined for a de luxe edition in large format, which is mentioned in the correspondence between Lavater and the publisher Joseph Johnson in 1788, but which was never published.”Christopher Baker, Andreas Beyer, and Pierre Curie, Füssli, entre rêve et fantastique, cat. nos. 49-50 (my translation). Placed next to a watercolor and opposite a version of The Nightmare, it exemplified Fuseli’s demonic and supernatural art of darkness. On the adjoining wall hung Fuseli’s Lapland Orgies, a painting that he developed from a simile that Milton used to convey the horror of the encounter with Sin and Death in Hell in book 2 of Paradise Lost.For a review that analyzes the choice of blackness—​whether it means being blinded or meditating in a Burkean obscurity—​in the context of Victor Hugo’s “bouche d’ombre” (Les Contemplations, 1856), inner cinema, and psychoanalysis, see Marc Porée, “Au musée Jacquemart-André, explorer notre part d’ombre avec Füssli,” Conversation (2 Oct. 2022), accessed 28 June 2023.

Head of a Damned Soul in Dante’s Inferno” (1789)
British Museum, 1874,0711.149

Peter Booth (curated by Anthony Fitzpatrick) TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Victoria, Australia
26 November 2022–​13 March 2023

Catalogue: Fitzpatrick, Anthony, and Kirsty Grant. Peter Booth. Healesville: TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2022.

An exhibition of works by the painter Peter Booth (1940–), who imagines “an apocalyptic world characterised by grotesque, unsettling, and at times absurd scenes of human and hybrid figures in varying states of apprehension, aggression and conflict.”Exhibition website. Prints by Blake, James Ensor, Francisco Goya, and Samuel Palmer represented artists who have influenced him: “The intensity and determined individuality of Blake’s approach to art and life resonated with Booth, and he reportedly pinned Blake’s aphorisms to his studio wall.”Fitzpatrick and Grant, Peter Booth 9.

Wood engravings for Robert John Thornton, The Pastorals of Virgil (1821):
Thenot Remonstrates with Colinet
Thenot under a Fruit Tree
Thenot Remonstrates with Colinet, Lightfoot in the Distance
Colinet Departs in Sorrow, a Thunder-Scarred Tree on the Right
Blasted Tree and Blighted Crops
The Good Shepherd Chases Away the Wolf
Sabrina’s Silvery Flood
Colinet’s Fond Desire Strange Lands to Know
National Gallery of Victoria, 1873-5 to 1880-5

Job’s Evil Dreams” [plate numbered 11], Illustrations of the Book of Job (printed 1874)
Art Gallery of South Australia, 545G25