Sunday, 18 March 2018

Blake in Sussex

Image credit V&A Museum
The, hopefully, last blast of snow from the east did not put me off heading out of town to Petworth House in West Sussex to see a small aubergine painted room in the servants quarters packed full of Blakes.

For three years Blake lived twenty miles distant at Felpham in a small cottage. It was the only time in his life when he left the capital to do crazy things like pretending be Adam and sit in his garden naked. But it was a very productive period for him, patronised as he was by the Duke of Egremont, to whom he wrote some really good letters of praise. My jaded 21st C eyes can't help reading these with a healthy dose of sarcasm. His wife Catherine was pretty good at it too. Necessities of survival one imagines. If you are a radical poet and artist, you need to make yourself amenable.

On show are works created during Blake's sojourn in Sussex including panels of Spencer and Milton, parades of characters from the Canterbury Tales and the Faerie Queen, and a host of religious watercolours and prints. My absolute favourite was Satan arousing the rebel angels, the light in which is positively divine. That Satan always gets the best lines is as true of Blake's vision as it is Milton's poetry. This watercolour and the shining Blake portrait on loan from the National Portrait Gallery kept me more than happy. Everything else was pure bonus.

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