William Blake at the Tate Britain

William Blake 'Europe' Plate i: Frontispiece, 'The Ancient of Days' 1827 © The Whitworth, The University of Manchester

This is the showstopper of the exhibition, printed huge for the Tate Britain exhibition Foyer. Be prepared for a shock when you see its actual size…

Who is William Blake?

A British painter famous for both his poetry and his art, Blake had strong views that he expressed in bizarre images of hellish and heavenly beings.

How do I enjoy this exhibition?

The exhibition is huge, and packed with Blake’s work. But do not be overwhelmed! You don’t have to see every artwork. Choose one piece at a time and get close. You can see how Blake’s fragile pencil line holds the water colour paint without overspill or mistake. On some of these works, you can spot gold leaf added; only a small amount, but enough to bring a celestial halo to many of his works. Notice how wide the eyes of Blake’s creatures are – they are full of life and character. Take a moment to read the poetry – his script is as beautiful as his drawings. Remember to bring a pencil, because the back page of the exhibition flyer is for your own drawing. Why not try to capture one of the extreme, exaggerated expressions? Blake communicates emotions so clearly, perhaps it feels similar to work by Goya (check out Goya’s ‘Saturn devouring his sons’ on google images for a gnarly graphic).

Is it good for a date?

If you want to impress your partner, take them to see art! Be honest if you have never heard of Blake; you’ll be discovering something new together 😉. Blake worked closely with his wife and the exhibition includes a drawing he made of her. After printing his pictures and poems for publication, his wife added colour to each copy. That’s commitment!

Can I go on my own?

Do it! Blake’s style is totally personal, why not have a one on one with him. The muscular forms were created by his mind alone, morphed from an academy training and knowledge of classical human form into something new and strange. These angelic beings do not move; they glide. They do not sit, they fold. Decide for yourself: do you like this odd style or does it offend you? Are you inspired or confused? What must it have been like to create your own image of humanity?

Why should I go?

Students Get £5 Tickets! Less than half price, join Tate collective online and buy the exhibition ticket from your account.

The Gallery has a lot more to see – FOR FREE! Ever wondered where inspiration for Star Wars’ Storm Troopers comes from? Check out Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill sculpture, only a few rooms away.

Art that could have inspired murder…?

If you know anything about Silence of the Lambs’ prequel, or the TV show Hannibal, you will know that the Red Dragon Killer was obsessed with William Blake’s art. Don’t you want to find out why?