Enfilade

Blake’s ‘Ancient of Days’ on St. Paul’s Dome

Posted in anniversaries, exhibitions, on site by Editor on December 1, 2019

A reproduction of William Blake’s The Ancient of Days from 1827 projected by Tate Britain onto St Paul’s Cathedral in London, 2019
(Photo by Alex Wojcik for Tate)

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There’s one more night to see Blake’s Ancient of Days projected onto the London skyline; the Tate Britain exhibition is on view until February 2; from the Tate press release (28 November 2019). . .

William Blake’s final masterpiece will illuminate the iconic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the artist’s birthday. The dramatic illustration The Ancient of Days (1827) was described by Blake as “the best I have ever finished” and will be visible across London this weekend. Tate Britain is currently staging the UK’s largest survey of works by Blake for a generation and has collaborated with St Paul’s Cathedral—home to the most visited Blake memorial in the UK—to recreate his vision on a monumental scale

Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist, proposing vast frescos that were never realised. Living and working in London for most of his life, the artist imagined adorning the walls of churches and public buildings in the city. The cityscape of London, dominated by St Paul’s Cathedral, inspired Blake’s powerful artworks and writing. His well-known poem Holy Thursday 1789 refers to “the high dome of Pauls.” Created as a frontispiece for the 1794 prophetic book Europe a Prophecy, The Ancient of Days is on loan to the exhibition at Tate Britain from the collection of the Whitworth, The University of Manchester and has become one of Blake’s best-known images. Through projections, Tate Britain will re-envision the small yet imposing illustration on an awe-inspiring scale, more than two centuries later.

Shaped by his personal struggles in a period of political terror and oppression, Blake’s radical beliefs meant he received little recognition in his own lifetime. November 28, 2019 would have been his 262nd birthday. In the almost two centuries since his death, Blake has become one of Britain’s most beloved artists and an inspiration to generations of musicians, writers, artists, and performers worldwide. Buried in relative obscurity in a common grave, the memorial to William Blake now installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral is visited by thousands each year.

Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, said: “Blake was an artist of gigantic imagination and vision, who has fired the creative ambition of generations. Seeing Blake’s work on a huge scale on this iconic building restores a sense of his towering presence in British culture.”

Paula Gooder, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to continue our partnership with Tate by hosting this projection of The Ancient of Days onto the dome of the Cathedral. This collaboration is made even more special because of the memorial in our Crypt to William Blake. We hope that the projection of this iconic image will be an inspiration to all who see it.”

The projections will run from 28 November until 1 December 2019, from 16.30 until 21.00 each evening. The project has been realised by Tate in collaboration with St Paul’s Cathedral, projection partners EMF Technology Ltd, and with the kind support of the Whitworth Art Gallery, The City of London, City of London School, and animation director Sam Gainsborough. The exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain is curated by Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790–1850.

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