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William Blake: Apprentice and Master, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 4 December 2014–1 March 2015; Michael Phillips, William Blake: Apprentice and Master


Susan Matthews

In 2014–15, William Blake: Apprentice and Master presented an artisan who labored to master difficult processes—bearing no small resemblance to the curator, whose life work it has been to understand and to master the techniques used by Blake. Phillips is himself the producer of beautiful artisanal editions of Blake’s illuminated books, printed from reproductions of the plates. His prints eschew color to reveal the delicate linearity of the plates. The atmospheric exhibition design included a re-creation of Blake’s printmaking studio (painted in tasteful Farrow and Ball colors) and labels that looked like copperplates. The visitor was offered a journey into Blake’s private world via a total immersion in the world of the eighteenth-century print trade, a context that appeals to today’s fascination with the craft of the artisan. This re-creation was clean and elegant, a workplace without clutter or dirt, the rubbish cleared away “from a caves mouth.”


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