Blake Pencil anyone?

Fancy a bit of visionary excess? Try the William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain. You will never have seen so many Blakes gathered together. What a bitter and angry man he was though! So much hack work as a printer and engraver to earn a living!

Pencil, courtesy William Blake

The oddest thing about the show is someone’s decision to offer us all a pencil. This is at the point – quite close to the beginning of the show – when Blake the young man, well supported by his parents (they had a hosiery business in Soho), has entered the Royal Academy Schools, desperate to be an artist. We see a little pencil drawing he has done of part of the lower leg of a handsome Roman statesman called Cincinnatus. The huge plaster cast Blake himself would have stared up at – nude, of course – is staring down at us from a plinth. At this point we spot a little perspex box full of pencils attached to the wall. Would we too fancy learning how to draw? we are asked.

It’s not much of pencil. Very small in fact. More like half a pencil. Do we have to draw like Blake though in order to be mocked for being a madman? Sounds quite attractive.

William Blake is at Tate Britain from 11 September to 2 February 2020

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