The Canterbury Pilgrims William Blake Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Canterbury Pilgrims by William Blake is very large line copper engraving on cream laid paper, created between 1808 to 1820, with additions in watercolour, depicting all the Pilgrims from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales on the road from London to Canterbury, a famous old pilgrimage route.

The dimensions of the work vary in size, 295 × 920 for the image, 300 × 925 mm for plate, and 368 × 965 mm for sheet. There are five impressions of this engraving. The work of art shows committed people of religion making an important pilgrimage but at the same time enjoying the social side of things, in the same way as modern churchgoers do. The book The Canterbury Tales is a book of stories by Pilgrims on the road to Canterbury, and the artwork shows those pilgrims telling those stories. Each of the Pilgrims in the piece of art are named by William Blake underneath the artwork and under his name and details of where the painting was created. The original was displayed in Blake's brother's shop in Soho in 1809 and the further impressions were created from it.

This piece of artwork is a magnificent and detailed item, showing many people on the move, the feature is the male and female pilgrims on horseback while around them move servants or onlookers on foot and the pilgrims' dogs. The band of pilgrims are moving through an archway which is on the lower left-hand side of the picture. In the background behind the Pilgrims, a stormy landscape of countryside and hills are pictured. Birds fly above the countryside in the wind and rain. The town behind the Pilgrims may be Canterbury, with the Cathedral spires.

The Canterbury Pilgrims is a very detailed work. The archway through which the pilgrims pass is very finely detailed and has script and carvings standing out, and each pilgrim, horse, servant or dog has distinguishable features. The finery of the horse riders is very flambouyant, even their horses are well dressed, and they are in high spirits, talking to each other as they ride. while behind the riders is the town containing buildings with smoking chimneys and a church steeple/cathedral spires set in the tumbling downs with the stormy and atmospheric stky above. The various impressions of the artwork are owned by various collections around the world, including in Illinois and London.