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Vol. 53 no. 1: Summer 2019

Blake and Exhibitions, 2018

  • Luisa Calè
12 June 2019
12 Jun. 2019


In 2018 a retrospective at Petworth reconsidered Blake’s corpus, focusing on how the experience of the sea and the landscapes of the South Downs affected his work, from the landscapes of the early 1800s to late works such as the Virgil woodcuts and Dante drawings. The works on display also offered an opportunity to reflect on his relationships with key patrons, from William Hayley to Thomas Butts and George O’Brien Wyndham, third Earl of Egremont. In an exhibition held by the Dom Museum, which hosts the collection of Vienna’s cathedral, plates from Blake’s Book of Urizen were displayed alongside illuminated manuscripts and a book sculpture that questioned the primacy of the word. While the Dom Museum placed Blake within medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary visual cultures of the book, Illuminating Poetry: Pre-Raphaelite and Beyond at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome focused on the nineteenth-century legacy of the illuminated book. The desire to reinvent the Middle Ages in different moments of technological innovation shaped Blake’s dialogue with the Pre-Raphaelites and contemporary interpretations of books and stained-glass windows in Visions and Visionaries at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London. In the exhibition Kiss and Tell: Rodin and Suffolk Sculpture at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, experiments in the representation of bodies in space included the serpentine groupings of whirling souls captured in Blake’s line engraving “The Circle of the Lustful” from Dante’s Commedia, which was displayed alongside drawings and sculptures from the Pre-Raphaelites to the twentieth century, selected to complement Auguste Rodin’s sculptural group The Kiss. The end of the year also saw Blake’s association with the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing in The Moon: From Inner Worlds to Outer Space at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, which showed a magnified reproduction of his emblematic etching “I want! I want!” as part of an iconography of the moon from the Incas to Galileo’s map, from the moon race to space colonization.