William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion
Accompanying the first exhibition devoted to the subject, William Blake in Sussex considers the collective significance of the English county to the life and work of the the celebrated artist and writer.
Sussex, the only place outside London where Blake ever lived, inspired a wide body of extraordinary work, done for new and existing patrons and ranging from the familiar to the rarely considered. Accompanying an exhibition at the National Trust’s Petworth House, this catalogue will explore William Blake’s association with Sussex and the works by him at Petworth, the only major country house to hold examples by the artist.
Disillusioned with London life and struggling to make a living, Blake and his wife Catherine went in 1800 to live at the coastal village of Felpham, which the artist soon described as “the sweetest spot on earth”. Providing his principal encounters with both English rural life and the coast, the artist’s three years “on the banks of the ocean” informed his two greatest illustrated epic poems, Milton and Jerusalem, and continued to be reflected in his work for the rest of his career: “In Felpham I saw and heard Visions
The authors will examine the relationships formed by Blake in Sussex, particularly with the poet William Hayley, the sculptor John Flaxman, the 3rd Earl of Egremont at Petworth House and his estranged wife Elizabeth Ilive, who commissioned two of the three Blakes now in Petworth. Blake’s work for Hayley, often dismissed as illustrative and decorative, will be reappraised, and other projects he worked on in Sussex will be celebrated, including extraordinary biblical illustrations.
Blake’s infamous arrest for sedition, allegedly for cursing the king while throwing a drunken soldier out of his Felpham garden, will be discussed. It is not widely known that Blake was tried first in Petworth, where he was vouched for by the 3rd Earl. Most importantly, the authors will contextualize the Petworth Blakes, not only the three pictures but also the artist’s engravings to The Book of Job and Robert Blair’s The Grave, copies of which survive in the private library in the house. Finally, the lasting influence of Sussex on Blake’s work will be considered.
Andrew Loukes et al.
Andrew Loukes with Naomi Billingsley, Martin Butlin,
Mark Crosby and Hayley Flynn
ISBN 978 1 911300 29 8
Paperback, 210 x 210 mm
120 pages, 70 colour illus.
National Trust’s Petworth House
13 January - 25 March 2018
In the press
"Revelatory … moving between the rare and the well known, William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion captures the imagination." —The Times
"Fascinating … William Blake in Sussex makes a strong case for the importance of this sweet pastoral interlude in the visionary artist’s life." —The Telegraph
"Explores the influence of Sussex on the visionary artist-poet ... some of his best work." —Country Life
"Treat of a show" —World of Interiors
“[William Blake in Sussex] combines the job of exhibition catalogue with a presentation of scholarly texts from specialist art historians, examines Blake in the context of Sussex in general and Petworth House in particular; the influence of the pastoral; his sponsor, poet William Hayley; and his biblical illustrations from the Felpham period … the overall impression is of a deeply significant artist whose personal idiosyncrasies produced some outstanding work and who continues to inspire critics and thinkers today.” —Sussex Life
"Emphasises the central place of the Sussex period in Blake's career, and its enduring impact on his later work."—Apollo