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A RE-STAGING OF WILLIAM BLAKE’S 1809 SOLO EXHIBITION

In April 2009, Tate Britain will unveil the first display devoted to William Blake’s only one-man exhibition, reuniting nine of the surviving works two hundred years after they went on display in May 1809. The original exhibition was Blake’s most significant attempt to create a public reputation for himself as a painter and provided a vital insight into the artist’s self-image and ambitions. A new edition of Blake’s Descriptive Catalogue (1809) will be published by Tate Publishing to coincide with the display.

Held in Blake’s brother’s shop on Golden Square, Soho, the exhibition comprised 16 works. It was not a critical success: only a single, negative review was published in the press, and the show was very poorly attended, to the artist’s profound dismay. It proved to be a turning-point in Blake’s life, leading him to withdraw yet more fully from the public realm and become even more embittered about the state of the British art world.

The Tate display will include works from the Tate Collection along with important loans from the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Fitzwilliam Museum, and Southampton Art Gallery. The display will highlight Blake's distinctive use of watercolour and tempera, which he called 'fresco painting' in imitation of the great painters of the Renaissance. For example, the watercolour The Soldiers Casting Lots for Christ's Garments 1800 will be displayed alongside tempera paintings such as Satan Calling up his Legions 1795-1800. The display will also include a number of related works by Blake, and more conventional paintings in oil colours and watercolour exhibited in other exhibitions in London in 1809 - including pictures by JMW Turner.

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Represented artists: William Blake

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