Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

William Blake etchings secured for the nation

William Blake

Eight etchings by William Blake have been acquired for the nation after the Tate gallery raised £441,000.

The "powerful" etchings, depicting the artist and writer's bleak visions, were discovered in the 1970s inside a train timetable at a secondhand book sale

Tate director Nicholas Serota, said it was an "extraordinary find".

The owner offered the etchings to the Tate Collection and the money was raised by The Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons and public donations.

These powerful etchings reveal the immense technical skill of William Blake, as well as his legendary imaginative range
Stephen Deuchar, The Art Fund

Sir Nicholas said: "I am delighted we have been able to acquire it for the nation.

"Blake has always been central to our historic collection of British art here at Tate, and these beautiful etchings will help us represent the amazing diversity of his work."

The works were inherited by Blake's widow Catherine following his death in 1827. She later gave them to a gentleman called Frederick Tatham.

Their ownership is then unknown, until they were purchased among a box of second hand books bought at a book sale in the late 1970s.

Watercolour

In the 1790s, Blake combined his talents as writer and visual artist to create a series of illuminated books, which he also printed himself.

He went on to reproduce images from these books as a set of separate relief etchings, each finished in pen and ink and hand-coloured by layering tempera on watercolour, to create independent works of art.

The Tate's acquisition consists of six etchings from Blake's major work The First Book of Urizen, one from the mythological poem The Book of Thel and one from his revolutionary prose work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Stephen Deuchar, director of The Art Fund, said: "These powerful etchings reveal the immense technical skill of William Blake, as well as his legendary imaginative range, and the story behind their discovery makes this acquisition all the more exciting."

The works will go on public display at Tate Britain in July 2010, and will travel to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, Moscow in November 2011 for the exhibition William Blake and British Visionary Art.



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