I spent yesterday, Epiphany, in Oxford, visiting the current exhibition ‘William Blake: Apprentice and Master’ at the Ashmolean Museum. The visit was specifically to write a review of the exhibition, so I won’t say too much about it here, but it did spark a three more general — and various — thoughts which I’ll share here.
1. Although I’ve written reviews of exhibitions before (and/or ramble about them on here) this was the first time I had visited an exhibition with the primary purpose of writing a review. Especially because it’s a topic so close to my own work (and still more because I’d read the catalogue before visiting), I really had to take a step back and tried to place myself in the shoes of the prospective visitor who might be reading my review (so I was thinking specifically about the readers of the journal I’m writing for). Watch this space for the results!
2. I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony of a Blake exhibition being held in one of the ancient universities which he poked fun at, calling them (ironically) ‘Places of Thought’ (see previous about Cambridge here and here).
3. An amble around the permanent displays took me into a gallery devoted to eighteenth-century Britain. It seems a shame that this isn’t flagged up for visitors to the exhibition as it illustrates how different Blake’s aesthetic was from the fashions of his time. I had a similar, indeed more striking, such experience, at the Rhode Island School of Design (see my post, ‘Take a Seat‘), where a Blake picture was placed in a room devoted to the eighteenth-century interior, as illustrated below (the Blake picture was behind me).