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Paintings and Drawings of William Blake (1981): Some Minor Additions

The presence in the Blake e Dante exhibition (see Reviews) of some of the watercolors from Melbourne that had not been exhibited in Europe either at the Hamburg and Frankfurt Blake exhibition in 1975 or that held at the Tate Gallery in 1978 gave me the opportunity to examine these for the first time. This and other information has led to some minor additions to information given in my Paintings and Drawings of William Blake, 1981.

In my no. 812 31 the “17” in the inscription b.r. has been written over another figure, apparently “16”. No. 812 99 has been disfigured by a stamp, “Felton Bequest”, b.r.

Two updatings of my catalogue continue the saga of the “1795” color prints. “Nebuchadnezzar,” my no. 301, is watermarked “JWhatman / 1804”. This is not surprising, as it was the companion “Newton” that was first found to have a similar 1804 watermark. On the other hand no. 320, “The House of Death,” is watermarked “1794 ITAYLOR”. Unfortunately, this color print also having been dated “1795” by Blake, this discovery upsets what one was hoping to establish as “Bindman’s Law,” that Blake only dated his prints 1795 if they were on paper watermarked 1804! This is in part based on the fact that the Tate Gallery’s examples of “Pity” and “Hecate,” which are not dated, do not seem to bear dated watermarks. The rest of the examples in the Tate are in the process of being examined, and any new discoveries will be reported in due course.

There are minor corrections concerning a drawing newly back from Australia, my no. 654, the sketch for the engraving “The Canterbury Pilgrims,” which is to be sold at Christie’s shortly. My own new measurements come out very slightly different from those given in my catalogue: 13 15/16 × 37 11/16 (35.4 × 85.7). In addition there is a roughly drawn framing line which reduces the height of the composition to approximately 13 in. (33 cm.). The paper has been folded a little to the right of center. A few corrections should be made to the transcript of Henry Cunliffe’s inscription. In his copy of Frederick Tatham’s original inscription “Canterbury” is split by a line break after “Canter-”. The word “engraved” is followed by “.—”. In the next part of his inscription he does in fact give Blake’s address correctly as “3 Fountain Court,” though as usual he gives his date of death as 1828. In his reference to Cunningham he spells “extraordinary” “extradordinary”. At the end of that sentence, after “Blake”, there is a full stop, and in the note on Sotheby’s the apostrophe appears to follow the final “s”. On actual viewing the drawing on the back, which is upside down in relation to the inscriptions, seems less directly related to the “Canterbury Pilgrims” composition than I tentatively suggested, though there are elements that can be read as figures on horseback. The paper of the drawing is considerably discolored but could almost certainly be bleached, in which case the drawing itself should stand out with much greater clarity.

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