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William Blake

What

Museums & Galleries

When

11/09/2019 - 02/02/2020

Where

Tate Britain

Millbank, SW1P 4RG

William Blake

11 September – 2 February

Tickets: £18 adults, U12s free

William Blake

tate britain william blake

'Tyger, Tyger burning bright....' - probably one of the first poems you recited and likely as not one of the first your 8 year old brings back from school to learn. And here it is (or rather a copy). Sooo tiny, the handwritten script is hard to read, the tiger at the bottom of the page surprisingly cuddly. 

William Blake, romantic poet, engraver, painter, visionary. Despite being almost instantly recognisable, his work is notoriously difficult to understand - so, is it worth putting your children through it?

I will be honest - I haven't tested my response to the press view on a junior a&u critic yet. But my verdict is yes, with some reservations.

The early rooms focus on Blake's training at the Royal Academy and the importance of drawing to him. You are encouraged to respond practically yourself  - the back page of the exhibition leaflet is left blank and pencils are provided for you to make your own sketches as you go round. Much of Blake's work is illustrative - of a poem, a bible story etc - and children will relate to the delicate beauty of the watercolours even if they don't know the story or cannot read the poem - I certainly couldn't read the tiny text!

 

His work is awash with monsters, generally afflicting various unlucky personages from Greek mythology or the bible. You could definitely have fun with a 'spot the grossest creature' competition - the famous Ghost of a Flea must be in the running. 

And then there are some that just leap off the page and grab you, the witchy Hecate, complete with crocodile, owl, donkey and a bizarre bat is a masterpiece of nightmarish beauty.

The exhibition makes a good stab at putting Blake in his historical and social context, something that may go over the heads of little ones. Don't worry. They will certainly pick up the fact he had no doubt of his own brilliance and seemed to fall out with everyone. His disastrous exhibition of 1809 is cleverly hung as if it was in his house in Broad Street, Soho, complete with atmospheric voiceover (The audio guide, with the voice of actor xx is recommended.)

And of course there is Newton. Preserved for posterity by Paolozzi outside the British Library, here he is an ambivalent force, not necessarily for good.

A supremely complex, misunderstood genius but at his heart also a gloriously evocative storyteller in pictures. Let your kids enjoy that element of him.

Book your tickets here!

 

William Blake 'Europe' Plate i: Frontispiece, 'The Ancient of Days' 1827 (?) © The Whitworth, The University of Manchester

William Blake

11 September – 2 February

Tickets: £18 adults, U12s free

Address:

Millbank, SW1P 4RG

Venue phone:

020 7887 8888

Venue website:

tate.org.uk

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