William Blake: Angels And Imagination At New Art Gallery Walsall

By Freya McClelland | 29 October 2008
William Blake's painting David Delivered out of Many Waters. An image of God presiding over his angels in pen, ink and watercolour © Tate: Presented by George Thomas Saul 1878

William Blake's painting David Delivered out of Many Waters, an image of God and his angels © Tate: Presented by George Thomas Saul 1878

Exhibition Preview - William Blake: Angels and Imagination, is running until January 4 2009.

The New Art Gallery in Walsall is hosting William Blake: Angels and Imagination, which examines Blake’s views about the duality of body and spirit through the artistic exploration of angels.

The works are drawn form three of Blake’s great series of illustrations for private patrons: Dante’s Divine Comedy, Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, and the series of bible illustrations for Thomas Butts.

The exhibition shows how Blake interpreted these in light of his own unique beliefs.

William Blake's painting The Good and Evil Angels circa 1805 Colour print of two angels touching fingertips finished in ink and watercolour on paper © Tate: Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through The Art Fund 1949

©Tate: Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through The Art Fund 1949

(Above) William Blake's painting The Good and Evil Angels, circa 1805.

The most important of these was Thomas Butts, for which Blake painted around 135 bible scenes, several of which are included in the exhibition.

Jo Digger, Collections Curator at The New Art Gallery Warsall said: “This timely exhibition enables us to connect the works by William Blake from our own collection with a wider context of Blake’s ideas and explorations.”

Extraordinarily, for Blake angels were very much rooted in the physical world and existed apart from any religious group; he had a manifest distrust of all institutions as he felt they opposed creativity and suppressed natural instinct and joy.

William Blake's painting Satan in His Original Glory ‘Thou Wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee’ circa 1805. The Image is of an angle surrounded by a bright light © Tate: Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949

William Blake's painting Satan in His Original Glory ‘Thou Wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee’ circa 1805. © Tate: Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949

Famously, he claimed to have visions and even conversations with angels, adamant that imagination was the uniting principle between man and seraph.

He once said of them: “It is not because angels are holier than men or devils that makes them angels, but because they do not expect holiness from one another, but from God only.”

Blake’s perception - that there is no contradiction between these visions and reality - formed the basis of his ideas on theology, philosophy and the role of artistic creativity and imagination.

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