The Pastorals of Virgil 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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Here we discover a project by William Blake which involved the production of Illustrations to Robert John Thornton, The Pastorals of Virgil. Each item within the series has now been researched in great detail and prints of the designs have been dispersed across the UK and US.

William Blake would complete many different series of artworks across his long career, most of which were inspired by religious scripture and poetry. His output was also varied, taking in a number of different mediums such as drawing and watercolour. Most common were engravings as these gave the opportunity for prints, which then allowed financial profits to be made. In some cases William Blake would re-visit paintings to produce new engraved versions of them, allowing copies then to be dispersed to a number of his patrons. One of his most famous sets of engravings would focus on the lives of Thenot and Colinet who appeared in a recent re-working of classical poetry. Blake extracted passages from the piece and provided illustrations that could work directly alongside the texts.

Much of this project, Illustrations to Robert John Thornton, The Pastorals of Virgil, can now be found in the Tate collection which resides in the UK. Titles from the series include Thenot Remonstrates with Colinet, Thenot and Colinet Folding their Flocks together at Sunset and Colinet with his Shepherd's Pipe, Mocked by Two Boys. These popular creations received several reprints as the artist attempted to squeeze out additional revenue from these well-received artworks. In fairness, some of these prints were actually produced many years after his death as a means to investigate the original engravings and to demonstrate the original printing methods that would have been used at the time.

Many of William Blake's artworks can be found at the Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Department, but this exclusive part of the gallery normally requires a pre-arranged appointment and is not a part of the main gallery. Visitors to that will still have plenty to see, though, including some of British art's most iconic artworks, such as Ophelia by John Everett Millais and Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse. In terms of Blake, his Newton is often out on display and remains one of his most famous creations and there are around two hundred items from his career in total here. Those who prefer more modern art can find Tate Modern elsewhere in London and that alternative venue remains one of the most visited art galleries in the world.