A group of bleak and morbid etchings by William Blake has been saved for the nation after £441,000 was raised by the Tate gallery. The hand-coloured works are prints of images that were created by Blake, who lived from 1757 to 1827, for three of his "illuminated books" (which fused the visual and the literary).
They disappeared for a couple of hundred years and were discovered in the 1970s in a box of secondhand books at a fundraising sale. The eight etchings include images of bodies stripped of flesh, reduced to bloody gore, and the torments of burning.
Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, said: "This was an extraordinary find, and I am delighted we have been able to acquire it for the nation. These beautiful etchings will help us represent the amazing diversity of his [Blake's] work." Stephen Deuchar, director of The Art Fund, said the eight "powerful etchings" displayed the technical skill of the artist, printmaker and poet, and his "legendary imaginative range".
The etchings will go on display at Tate Britain in July. In November 2011 they will form part of the collection being sent to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art in Moscow for an exhibition devoted to Blake.