William Blake

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William Blake
(1757-1827)

A Cradle Song from Songs of Innocence

London: The Author & Printer W. Blake, 1789

Bequest of Tessie Jones in memory of her father, Herschel V. Jones, 1968

PML 58636
Item description: 

Songs of Innocence is one of Blake's earliest illuminated books, printed by a relief etching process of his own invention. His novel printing methods assured the artistic integrity of his work, giving him complete control over the production of his limited editions and the configuration of word and image, rendered in the same medium to form an inspired synthesis of his visionary ideas. Twenty-six copies survive. One of sixteen printed in yellow ochre and raw sienna about 1789, this copy was hand-colored by Blake around 1794 for his friends Anna and John Flaxman, a prominent sculptor and illustrator who shared some of his stylistic traits and artistic views.

About this exhibition: 

William Blake (1757–1827) occupies a unique place in the history of Western art. His creativity included both the visual and literary arts. In his lifetime he was best known as an engraver; now he is also recognized for his innovative poetry, printmaking, and painting. Blake's keen perception of the political and social climate found expression throughout his work. His strong sense of independence is evident in the complex mythology that he constructed in response to the age of revolution. 

Blake was already recognized as an engraver at age twenty-five, when his first volume of poems appeared. At thirty-three, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he audaciously claimed that his birth had marked the origin of a "new heaven" in which his own art would exemplify the creativity prefigured by Milton and Michelangelo. By that time, Blake, in one of his most productive periods, had already produced Songs of Innocence and was at work on a series of illuminated books. In 1818 he met John Linnell, a young painter and engraver, through whom a group of young artists became Blake's followers. Calling themselves the Ancients, they helped perpetuate Blake's influence for generations. 

The Morgan's Blake collection—one of this country's most distinguished—began with purchases as early as 1899 by Pierpont Morgan. During the tenure of Charles Ryskamp, director from 1969 to 1986, major gifts almost doubled the size of its Blake holdings. In recent years Ryskamp's own gifts of engravings, letters, and related materials have significantly enriched its scholarly resources.

Credits: 

This online exhibition is presented in conjunction with the exhibition William Blake's World: "A New Heaven Is Begun" on view September 11, 2009, through January 3, 2010.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Fay and Geoffrey Elliott.