23 January 2020

Captivated by William Blake at Tate Britain

As soon as the William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain was announced I knew that I would go. This was despite seeing a lot of the collection several times before in the permanent display of his works in the same gallery.

It still took me several months to book to see it and I finally got there fairly early on a Thursday morning about a week before the exhibition closed.

I picked a 11am start as on my previous visit I had gone for 10am and that was bit of a rush with the museum opening at that time. The extra hour allowed the place to open properly, including the cloakroom where I left my Winter coat, and for me to have a coffee and a cake beforehand. The extra zip that gave me was most welcome.

The exhibition was held in the usual place just to the left of the main entrance but unusually the eleven rooms were described as just five in the small free guide. This made sense for the exhibition but confused my timing as I was never quite sure how much there was still to see, and that was after I made a dash to the end to see the extent of what was to come.

The exhibition was organised chronologically which made perfect sense as the work he did was governed by his changing commercial fortunes while the style stayed much the same throughout.

What surprised me the most was the size of many of his works. I had seen some of his smaller pieces before, typically illustrations for books, and there were many more of these here and several much smaller ones too.

The picture on the right is something like actual size and I struggled to read the text on most of these. The picture above is enlarged slightly.

There was a great deal to see, over 300 pieces, and everyone required careful consideration. This was not at exhibition that you could whizz through absorbing the highlights on the way.

And there were plenty of highlights.

It took me two and a half hours to get around and that was driven more by my capacity to consume art than by the amount on display. I did not exactly rush through the last couple of rooms but they certainly got less attention that some of the earlier ones. I also lacked the energy to go back and revisit my personal favourites.

The William Blake exhibition did everything that I hoped and more. There were no surprises on the content aside (apart from the two landscapes) and I was able to wallow in his familiar style savouring old favourites and many new items. I also read all the words and while a few of those were curator's licence on interpretation there was a lot of information that was new to me which helped to explain the man and his works.

Tate Britain knows how to put on a show and William Blake was my kind of show.

No comments:

Post a comment

All comments are welcome. Comments are moderated only to keep out the spammers and all valid comments are published, even those that I disagree with!