In the Morgan’s first exhibition devoted to Blake in two decades, former director Charles Ryskamp and curators Anna Lou Ashby and Cara Denison have assembled many of Blake’s most spectacular watercolors, prints, and illuminated books of poetry to dramatically underscore his genius and enduring influence. William Blake’s World: “A New Heaven Is Begun”—the subtitle a quote from Blake referring to the significance of his date of birth—is on view from September 11, 2009, to January 3, 2010.
The show includes more than 100 works and among the many highlights are two major series of watercolors, rarely displayed in their entirety. The twenty-one watercolors for Blake’s seminal illustrations for the Book of Job—considered one of his greatest works and revealing his personal engagement with biblical texts—were created about 1805–10. Also on view are twelve drawings illustrating John Milton’s poems L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, executed about 1816–20. Both series were undertaken for Blake’s principal patron, Thomas Butts.
“The name William Blake means different things to different people,” said William M. Griswold, director of the Morgan. “Engraver, painter, poet, visionary—all apply to Blake, and all are accurate. The Morgan is fortunate to have one of the most important collections of Blake material in the world, and this exhibition provides an opportunity to see his extraordinary creativity across many disciplines.”