By now, the viewer is being asked to do two things at once, to follow both the slow stages of Blake’s developing technique and the galloping advance of his ideas and rhetoric. It’s a lot to take in, leaving little room for the powerful response and questioning that Blake’s works usually provoke. Yet that is called out by the startling plates for Europe, a Prophecy, and the large color prints of 1795—Nebuchadnezzar, Newton, The House of Death, and The Dance of Albion, works that never fail to amaze. Their various states bring painter and printer together, as Blake works with his fine brush, then applies sweeping areas of glue-based color pigment. Once they are printed, he returns to pen and ink to define the images, adding watercolor glazes. These remain a wonder, and, as Phillips writes, “To this day the Large Colour Prints have never been entirely understood—either in terms of the techniques and materials used to produce them or in how they were to be understood, either individually or together.”
Sounds like a wonderful exhibition. I hope it makes it’s way my way soon.