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“an excellent saleswoman”: The Last Years of Catherine Blake

Angus Whitehead


Biographical information concerning any period of the life of Catherine Sophia Blake, née Boucher, remains lamentably sparse. However, few twenty-first-century scholars would agree with Mona Wilson’s comment, made about 1927, that “there is little independent record of Catherine Blake, nor is it needed.” For the four years following Blake’s death, Catherine was the custodian and saleswoman of a varied and substantial collection of her husband’s works, as well as his drawing, painting, engraving, and printing materials. She was also a unique source for much information about his life and working practices communicated to Frederick Tatham, his fellow Ancients, and other friends and visitors. For almost forty-five years she was the person who lived and worked most closely with Blake, enabling him to realize numerous projects, impossible without her assistance. Catherine was an artist and printer in her own right, with firsthand knowledge and experience of Blake’s art practices. And yet in surviving contemporary records written during and after her marriage, she was principally commended for her domestic role.

Image © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. PD.158-1985.

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