The William Blake Archive is pleased to launch Works in Preview, a new wing presenting designs that are among Blake’s largest and most complex. Instead of waiting until the details of the designs are fully encoded—which makes them more fully searchable but can take years to complete—the Archive is presenting the designs in an environment that enables viewers to enlarge them many times their true size to reveal details not previously visible in any reproductions.

Viewers zoom in or out by using the Preview window’s “plus” or “minus” buttons, by moving two fingers up or down on the track pad, or by using a mouse’s wheel; viewers move an image by clicking and dragging. Images can also be examined in Full Screen mode, which provides the largest display and is ideal for external monitors. In Preview mode, viewers return to the whole design as initially displayed by clicking Home; in Full Screen mode, they return by clicking Exit Full Screen. Both viewing modes are accompanied by a slider that lightens and darkens the image, enabling users to see details long obscured by darkened paints and varnishes.

See the video tutorial on viewing Works in Preview below:

Our new wing opens with the five extant paintings from Blake’s 1809 exhibition: The Spiritual Form of Pitt (c. 1805), The Spiritual Form of Nelson (c. 1805-09), and The Bard (c. 1809) from Tate Britain; Satan Calling Up His Legions, an Experiment Picture (c. 1799-1805) from the Victoria and Albert Museum; and Sir Jeffery Chaucer and the Nine and Twenty Pilgrims on Their Journey to Canterbury (c. 1808) from Pollok House, Glasgow. These five paintings were executed in opaque water-miscible colors on canvas, many heightened with gold. These paintings are usually referred to as “temperas,” though Blake called them “frescos” and technically they are a form of “distemper,” because the colors were mixed with glue.

In the Descriptive Catalogue, which accompanied the exhibition, Blake defined his new mode of painting as “portable fresco” and discusses the paintings under numbers 1, 2-4, and 9. To these works we are adding Satan Calling Up His Legions from Petworth House, a later version of the design that Blake mentions in the catalogue (p. 54). We are also publishing the list of Blake’s works at Petworth House and Pollok House, which can be found among our Collection Lists in the Resources for Further Research section of the Archive.

More designs will enter Works in Preview in the near future, including The Spiritual Condition of ManHervey’s MeditationsSpenser’s Faerie QueeneThe Sea of Time and Space, and multiple versions of Visions of the Last Judgment. The medium, size, date, provenance, and location of each design is given in the Work Information link under the image; also accompanying each design are Editors’ Notes and a link to the Lightbox, where images can be moved, rotated, resized, and cropped.

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
Joseph Fletcher, managing editor, Michael Fox, assistant editor
The William Blake Archive