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Tracey Emin and William Blake in Focus, Tate Liverpool, September 2016–September 2017

Sibylle Erle

In Liverpool, as part of Tate Liverpool’s In Focus series, Tracey Emin (b. 1963) and William Blake (1757–1827), two London-based artists, shared exhibition space for almost a year. The intention, according to Tate Liverpool’s web site, was to show “a shared concern with birth, death and spirituality in both artists’ work.” The highlights of the exhibition, it says, included My Bed (1998) and drawings by Emin, Blake’s large color print Pity (c. 1795, Butlin #310), presented to the Tate in 1939 by W. Graham Robertson, and the ink and watercolor painting The Crucifixion: “Behold Thy Mother” (c. 1805, Butlin #497), originally part of a series done for Thomas Butts illustrating Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The painting was given to the Tate in 1949, a year after Robertson’s death. To link Emin and her art to that of Blake is not new: “To say that Emin is like Blake, as has often been done, is not to claim that she is his equal. But it is true that she, like him, is a romantic who, although admired by many, has also disturbed people to the point of fear. … Both artists, in their search for poeticised truth, manifest a strong disregard of opinion” (Brown 10).

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