The image displayed here is of a single entry into this extensive series of work. It was titled The Man Who Taught Blake Painting in his Dreams and is dated at after c.1819–20. He used graphite to put this drawing together and it is sized at 296 × 235 mm, which means it is likely to have come from a sketchbook as they have a uniform page size very similar to this. The overall Visionary Heads series was commissioned by John Varley, someone who would eventually become a part of this series himself within an artwork that was titled Head of the Ghost of a Flea. The overall set of sketches is amongst the most significant contribution that the artist made through drawings, though it is important to remember that he also used pen sketchwork as the basis for most of his watercolour paintings.
There are several different versions of this drawing floating around British art collections, and no-one is quite sure as to which is the original and which are the copies. Blake regularly produced printed copies of his artworks which he could distribute to help promote his own career. His Visionary Heads series would eventually take in a large number of different portraits, and his styles across the different drawings would vary considerably, both in the style of the composition, and even in the mediums that he used. These were also not simply standard portraits, either, as the artist inserted all manner of symbolic meanings into his work, sometimes not even identifying the subject and leaving us to work it out by ourselves. Additionally, some of the titles given to the individual drawings were long and vague, not giving us the key information that we needed.
Considerable research has been completed into the Visionary Heads series, perhaps more than on any other set of drawings from William Blake's career. Most prints remain in well connected institutions who have the will and the resources to commit to learning more about the items within their collection. William Blake also holds a particular place in the heart of British art, and so it is easy to get agreement on anything that can help us to learn more about his life and work. Even today, several centuries later, he is still considered one of the most talented people to have come from this island, ranking well even against our finest scientists, engineers and other artists. Exhibitions of his work therefore remain frequent, and much of his oeuvre remains in the UK, making it relatively easy to organise.