23/02/2024 - 19/05/2024

Discover William Blake’s universe and a constellation of European artists seeking spirituality in their lives and art in response to war, revolution and political turbulence at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Responding to the upheavals of revolution and war in Europe and the Americas, visionary artist, poet, and printmaker William Blake (1757-1827) produced an astonishing body of work that combined criticism of the contemporary world with his vision for universal redemption. William Blake’s Universe, opened at the Fitzwilliam Museum in February 2024, will be the first major exhibition to consider Blake’s position in a constellation of European artists and writers striving for renewed spirituality in art and life. Organised in collaboration with the Hamburger Kunsthalle, and drawing on extensive research, this ambitious exhibition will explore the artist’s unexpected yet profound links with important European figures including pre-eminent German Romantic artists Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1820) and Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840). It will also place Blake within his artistic network in Britain, drawing parallels with the work of his peers, mentors and followers including Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), John Flaxman (1755-1826), and Samuel Palmer (1805 – 1881). Featuring around 180 paintings, drawings, and prints, including over 90 of those by Blake, this major exhibition marks the largest ever display of work from the Fitzwilliam’s world-class William Blake collection, with additional loans from the British Museum, Tate, Ashmolean and other institutions. Examples of the artist’s most iconic and much-loved works including Albion Rose (1794–6) and Europe: A Prophecy (1794), will be joined by rarely exhibited artworks from Blake’s oeuvre, including outstanding new acquisitions from the Sir Geoffrey Keynes bequest, displayed publicly for the first time since joining the Fitzwilliam collection. These include the trial frontispiece of Blake’s prophetic book Jerusalem (1804–1820) and his spectacular large drawing Free Version of the Laocoön (c.1825). Additional highlights include the unique first state of Joseph of Arimathea (1773), produced by Blake as an apprentice aged 16, shown alongside a reworked version of the same image, completed by Blake in his mature years.