William Blake, Thenot remonstrates with Colinet, Lightfoot in the background, a wood-engraving

England, AD 1821

From a series made for an edition of Virgil's pastoral poems

This is one of a series of wood-engravings made by Blake to illustrate Ambrose Philips's eighteenth-century imitation of Virgil's first Eclogue (42-37 BC), in which two shepherds, Thenot and Colinet, converse. They were commissioned by Dr R.J. Thornton for the school book The Pastorals of Virgil. At this time Blake was under the patronage of the painter John Linnell (1792-1882), who encouraged him to undertake his own designs, publicized his work and secured him commissions. Blake's wood-engravings concentrated more on atmospheric effect than precise outline, and it took the influence of John Linnell and others to prevent Dr Thornton from withdrawing his commission after he had seen them. Thornton recorded his reservations on the frontispiece to the pastoral: 'The illustrations of this English Pastoral are by the famous BLAKE.... This is mentioned, as they display less of art than genius, and are much admired by some eminent painters'.

'Blake's compositions inspired by Virgil's pastorals are the only examples of his wood-engravings to survive. Samuel Palmer called them 'visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise ... the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry'. Although they attracted little interest in Blake's day, they have had a great influence on artists in the twentieth century. The wood blocks are also in The British Museum.

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More information

Bibliography

D. Bindman, The complete graphic work of W (London, Thames and Hudson, 1978)

R.N. Essick, The separate plates of William (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1983)

R. Lister, The paintings of William Blake (Cambridge, 1986)

A. Wilton, The wood engravings of William (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)

Dimensions

Height: 32.000 mm
Width: 73.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1885-3-14-109

PPA52048

Location

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