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William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, Petworth House (National Trust), January–March 2018; Andrew Loukes, ed., William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion


Luisa Calè

Landscape near Felpham (Tate, cat. no. 3, Butlin no. 368), a watercolor seascape with a boat in the bottom foreground and a ray of light illuminating William Blake’s cottage in the mid-distance, reflects Blake’s first impressions upon arrival in Felpham, Sussex, where he spent three years from 1800 to 1803: “Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates   her windows are not obstructed by vapours.” In an earlier letter, he presented his imminent move “As the time … when Men shall again converse in Heaven & walk with Angels.” This promise of visionary conversation is borne out in a tail-vignette in Milton captioned “Blakes Cottage at Felpham,” featuring a scene of visitation with the virgin Ololon descending from the sky. The poem attributes the move to his prophetic character Los, so “that in three years I might write all these Visions” (Milton 36 [40].24, E 137). The importance of place is confirmed in Jerusalem: “In Felpham I heard and saw the Visions of Albion” (Jerusalem 34 [38].41, E 180). While analysis of the “Three years <Herculean> Labours at Felpham” (E 572) has focused on the composition of Milton and Jerusalem, a wider case about Blake’s visual corpus was made in William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, the exhibition curated by Andrew Loukes at Petworth House from January to March 2018. It reconstructed the impact of Blake’s Felpham period by bringing together works composed in Sussex, those commissioned or acquired by the Countess and Earl of Egremont, and later works inspired by rural and maritime scenes experienced in Sussex.


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