Catalogue of William Blake's Drawings and Paintings in the Huntington Library

Catalogue of William Blake's Drawings and Paintings in the Huntington Library

Catalogue of William Blake's Drawings and Paintings in the Huntington Library

Catalogue of William Blake's Drawings and Paintings in the Huntington Library

Excerpt

The chief part of the Huntington Library's collection of drawings and paintings by Blake consists of sets of water-color drawings illustrating three works by Milton: Paradise Lost, "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity" and Comus. There are in addition several independent water colors, pencil drawings, and two oil paintings, as well as some material that has been associated with Blake's name.

Blake completed two, and may have contemplated more, sets of illustrations to Paradise Lost. The series in the Huntington Library, of 1807, is earlier than the other, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and comprises twelve illustrations (plus one large variant), as against the nine at Boston. Being earlier, it is more spontaneous in feeling and lighter and freer in touch than the larger, elaborated drawings in the later series. The Huntington set was published in color by the Lyceum Press in 1906, the year in which, under dual ownership, it was last seen publicly in England, at the Carfax Exhibition in London. The set (except for one drawing) was next exhibited in 1919, in New York, then reunited in one ownership after a long separation.

Blake made two sets also of his six illustrations to the hymn on the Nativity. Here, again, the Huntington Library is fortunate in owning the earlier (ca. 1808), which was conceived by Blake in iridescent color, whereas the second set, now at the Whitworth Institute, Manchester, was drawn virtually in monochrome with strong pen outline.

The illustrations in the Huntington Library were reproduced in the Nonesuch Press edition of Milton in 1926; they were last seen publicly in England, at auction, in 1912. Before coming to California they were exhibited, in 1919, in New York.

Of his Comus drawings (the third series of Miltonic illus-

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