Art lovers will this year be able to step back in time and into the studio of William Blake, and get a glimpse of the working process of the artist described as “Albion’s strangest genius”.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is to recreate the artist and writer’s studio at No.13 Hercules Building, Hercules Road in Lambeth, which was knocked down after being ravaged by fire in 1918.
Experts have been able to recreate the space exactly after the chance discovery of ground floor plans in the Guildhall Library, as well as descriptions of visits to the studio by his contemporaries.
Michael Phillips, a guest curator, hopes to provide an insight into “the working environment of one of Britain’s most original and influential artists”.
The recreated studio will include a wooden roller press – Blake was one of the last to use the equipment developed in the Renaissance – and facsimiles of Blake’s etching plates and Mr Phillips, himself a printer, will demonstrate the techniques.
“From the plans and descriptions we know exactly where the equipment and furniture was, and exactly where the workbench and fireplace was,” Ashmolean curator Colin Harrison said.
“You’ll get a sense of how confined the space was and how physically difficult it was,” he said. “Blake was a genius and mad in his lifetime. He was mostly incomprehensible to us afterwards but he was a human being. To see how he worked and developed as an artist and poet is something that will help people understand him.”
Art Everywhere exhibition shortlist
Art Everywhere exhibition shortlist
1/25 Art Everywhere
William Blake, 'The Circle of the Lustful', 1824-7, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Birmingham Museums Trust
2/25 Art Everywhere
David Hockney, 'My Parents', 1977, Tate
David Hockney, Tate, London 2014
3/25 Art Everywhere
Dora Carrington, 'Farm at Watendlath', 1921, Tate
Tate, London 2014
4/25 Art Everywhere
Dame Laura Knight, 'Ruby Loftus screwing a Breech-ring', 1942, Imperial War Museums
Image courtesy of Imperial War Museums
5/25 Art Everywhere
Grayson Perry, 'The Annuniciation of the Virgin Deal', 2012, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London and British Council
Grayson Perry with photography by Stephen White
6/25 Art Everywhere
Stanhope Alexander Forbes, 'A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach', 1885, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
The Estate of Stanhope Alexander Forbes, Bridgeman Images 2014
7/25 Art Everywhere
Michael Andrews, 'Melanie and Me Swimming', 1978-9, Tate
8/25 Art Everywhere
George Frederic Watts, 'Ellen Terry (Choosing)', 1864, National Portrait Gallery
9/25 Art Everywhere
Augustus Leopald Egg, The Travelling Companions, 1862, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
10/25 Art Everywhere
Patrick Caulfield, 'Pottery', 1969, Tate
The Estate of Patrick Caulfield, image courtesy of Tate
11/25 Art Everywhere
John Hoyland, 'Memory Mirror', 1981, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
The Estate of John Hoyland, image courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum
12/25 Art Everywhere
Rose Wylie, 'Early Memory Series No.2: Doodle Bug', 1998, York Museums Trust, York Art Gallery
Rose Wylie, image courtesy of York Museums Trust
13/25 Art Everywhere
Eileen Agar, 'Slow Movement', 1970, National Galleries of Scotland
The Estate of Eileen Agar
14/25 Art Everywhere
Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Iago (Study from an Italian)', 1867, National Media Museum
National Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
15/25 Art Everywhere
Gilbert & George, Existers, 1984, Tate
Gilbert & George, courtesy White Cube
16/25 Art Everywhere
John Constable, 'Study of Cirrus Clouds', c.1822, Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
17/25 Art Everywhere
Edward Collier, 'Trompe l'oeil with Writing Materials', c.1702, Victoria and Albert Museum
18/25 Art Everywhere
Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, 'Coalbrookdale by Night', 1801, Science Museum
19/25 Art Everywhere
Ivon Hitchens, 'A River Pool', 1951, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries
Jonathan Clark Fine Art
20/25 Art Everywhere
Henry Moore, King and Queen, 1952-3, cast 1957, Tate
Tate, London 2014
21/25 Art Everywhere
Hans Holbein the Younger, 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?)', 1526-8, The National Gallery
22/25 Art Everywhere
Gillian Wearing, 'Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say I'M DESPERATE', 1992-1993, Tate
Gillian Wearing, image courtesy of Tate
23/25 Art Everywhere
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, 'Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait')', c.1592, National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery, London
24/25 Art Everywhere
Ben Nicholson, '1940-42 (two forms)', 1942, Southampton City Art Gallery
Angela Verren Taunt
25/25 Art Everywhere
Marc Quinn, 'Self', 2006, National Portrait Gallery
The works on display at that exhibition include illuminated books such as The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Europe a Prophecy which were made in the studio.
It will be at the heart of the Ashmolean show William Blake: Apprentice & Master which opens in December and “traces how Blake himself developed from apprentice to master, poet to artist-printmaker, and then how he inspired a new generation of visionary artists”.
Blake was born in Soho in 1757, the third of seven children, and showed artistic promise from a young age. He studied under engraver James Basire as an apprentice and established himself by 1789; the exhibition will explore how he developed his technique.
Philip Pullman, president of the Blake Society, who dubbed him “Albion’s strangest genius”, continued: “William Blake was a complete original: his power, his tenderness, his wit, his graphic line are like no-one else’s.”
He added: “It’s good to remind people every so often about his colossal imagination and his moral vision, which are just as potent now after two hundred years as they were when he brought them into the world.”
Alexander Sturgis, who took over as director of the Ashmolean earlier this year, revealed that an anonymous donor had made a “seven-figure” donation to the museum and announced plans to raise an endowment of £50m.
So far it has received donations of £9m and hopes that such a fund would raise £2m annually, a fifth of its operating budget and secure the future of the museum, which opened in 1683.
This comes as the museum experienced the most ever visitor numbers to one of its exhibitions, Cezanne and the Modern, which opened in March and ran for just over three months.Reuse content