Monday, January 18, 2010

Picture of the Week no. 7 - William Blake

To celebrate the fantastic news that Tate Britain has bought 8 recently discovered works on paper by William Blake, this weeks picture of the week is a stunning work that was on display in Tate Britain last year in the Gothic Nightmares exhibition. The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child is a dynamic composition that epitomises Blake's ideas on good and evil, which he saw as being two essential and opposite forces that were needed in balance and the idea that Good or 'Reason' should win over Evil or 'Energy' was an erroneous one.KP

WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827)

The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child, 1793-4

pen and watercolour on paper, 29.5 ´ 44.2 cm
inscribed on reverse: £5-5

Accession no.: P.272

This is a slightly later development of the design on plate IV of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, dated 1790 on one copy but almost certainly not completed until 1793. The watercolour was the basis for the large colour print of 1795 which is in reverse, and must have been painted between these two dates.

A complex stylistic and iconographic link with the watercolour of Los and Orc (Butlin no.225) makes it possible to identify the tethered figure as Orc and the figure holding the child as Los. The figure of the child and its relationship to the ‘Good’ Angel, and indeed the general composition, are close to Blake’s engraving after Stothard for one of the illustrations to Joseph Ritson’s Select Collection of English Songs, 1793, I, p.170.

PROVENANCE: Mrs. Blake; sold to C.A. Tulk or brother-in-law Sigismund Stolterforth; by descent to Mrs. Gladys Nottidge; Sotheby’s 10 December 1958, lot 95, bought by P&D Colnaghi Ltd, for the Gallery.

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