The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of an electronic edition of thirty-three of Blake’s water color illustrations to the Bible. All take their subjects from the New Testament and have been added to the twenty Old Testament subjects published in March 2010 as “Illustrations to the Bible, c. 1780-1824,” under Drawings and Paintings, Water Color Drawings. This new group is presented in our Preview mode, one that provides all the features of the Archive except Image Search and Inote (which provides detailed descriptions of Blake’s images).
Blake executed most of these New Testament water colors c. 1800-05 for his patron Thomas Butts. The exceptions are The Whore of Babylon of 1809 and The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in the Yale Center for British Art, datable to c. 1825. The subjects range from the childhood of Jesus to his ascension, the later history of his parents and one of his major followers, St. Paul, and a group of eight designs based on the Book of Revelation. While the illustrations of the life of Christ are fairly conventional in their subjects, in part because of the long tradition of picturing almost every event in the Gospels, individual motifs recall designs in Blake’s illuminated books and thus offer a window on Blake’s visual interpretation of the Bible. The illustrations of Revelation complement Blake’s intense engagement with apocalyptic events and images in his own poetry.
The selection of fifty-three biblical water colors now available in the Archive will be supplemented in the future with early works, such as Abraham and Isaac, datable to c. 1780, and will continue through Blake’s final biblical water colors, such as Moses Placed in the Ark of the Bulrushes.
As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the University of Rochester, the continuing support of the Library of Congress, and the cooperation of the international array of libraries and museums that have generously given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the Archive.
Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
Ashley Reed, project manager, William Shaw, technical editor
The William Blake Archive