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Vol. 53 no. 4: Spring 2020

William Blake, Tate Britain, 11 September 2019–2 February 2020; Martin Myrone and Amy Concannon, with an afterword by Alan Moore, William Blake

  • Luisa Calè
9 April 2020
09 Apr. 2020


Arms outstretched, standing on a mottled rock with legs spread apart, one slightly bent backward, and with multicolored rays shining behind him, “Albion Rose” greeted viewers entering the Tate Blake retrospective. The title comes from the inscription “Albion rose from where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves” on a later state of this plate, which includes the signature “WB inv 1780.” Since the first state was etched in the mid-1790s, this visionary dating suggests Blake’s emancipation from his apprenticeship as an engraver (1772–79). Casting aside the artisan printmaker who was central to the previous Tate exhibition (2000–01) and to William Blake: Apprentice and Master at the Ashmolean (2014–15), the 2019–20 exhibition started with Blake’s enrollment in the Royal Academy (1779–85?). Placed on the threshold of the exhibition, “Albion Rose” articulated a shared idiom of art practice through a dynamic, almost dancing allusion to Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, while the red, yellow, and blue rays radiating outward behind him brought to mind a prismatic color wheel.