Homer and the Ancient Poets 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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Homer and the Ancient Poets is a charming, atmospheric landscape drawing by William Blake which makes use of a number of different artistic genres and mediums. There are figurative portraits in the foreground, for example, as well as a plethora of trees and mountains.

This design was completed by the artist between the years of 1824–7, meaning it came right at the end of his life. By this stage the artist had gone through many stylistic developments across the course of his career, as described in this biography. He loved to combine different tools, even within relatively small artworks and this particular piece made use of graphite, ink and watercolour on paper. It would normally be his watercolour tones which brought in the most colour, whilst the others would be used to define shape more precisely. Of course, this combination is not unusual within the art world, but it was the figurative mastery of Blake, plus his own imaginative content which helped his art to stand out from all others of that period. Even within this scene we can immediately spot the lines of pencil that create the trees, the poet figures and the rocky landscape, whilst tones of blue are then loosely applied for the cloud-like formations.

This drawing was a part of the artist's work for The Divine Comedy which is a famous series of poems by Dante. Several other artists have used the texts as inspiration for a number of drawings, with Blake's version being amongst the most impressive. You will see Hell Canto in the bottom right hand side, as written by the artist himself, and that refers directly to the particular section of the original literature on which this drawing is based. It is also important to note that the artist would add his own freedom upon the original texts, using artistic license and avoiding restricting himself too much to the precise wording of the original literature. Artists of that period appreciated how he would re-invent and use self-expression within his work in this way.

The Tate owns a good number of William Blake paintings, including Homer and the Ancient Poets, and sometimes puts on exhibitions of the artist's work that also pulls in items from elsewhere too. Visitors to its various galleries will discover a rich display of art from the past few centuries which is particularly detailed on the UK, but with many other important artists also featured. Dante Gabriel Rossetti is well represented here, for example, with classics such as Ecce Ancilla Domini and Beata Beatrix. You will probably also be interested in checking out the likes of Horse Attacked by a Lion by George Stubbs and also Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent. Tate Britain and Tate Modern are the highest profile venues that they run, but other regional galleries have also been opened in recent years in an attempt to allow more of the population to enjoy their impressive collection.

Homer and the Ancient Poets in Detail William Blake