Catalogue entry

A00041 Landscape near Felpham c.1800

A 00041 / B 368
Pencil and watercolour 237×343 (9 3/8×13 1/2) on paper, trimmed irregularly 300×412 (11 13/16×16 3/16)

Inscribed by Frederick Tatham ‘William Blake vouched by Frederick Tatham. subject not known. perhaps near Felpham’ b.r.
Presented by Mrs John Richmond 1922
PROVENANCE Mrs Blake; Frederick Tatham; his brother-in-law George Richmond, sold Christie's 29 April 1897 (in 147 with 22 other items; see no.2) £2.10.0 bt Dr Richard Sisley; his daughter Mrs John Richmond
EXHIBITED Tate Gallery 1947 (67); Landscape in Britain c.1750–1850 Tate Gallery, November 1973-February 1974 (286, repr.); Tate Gallery 1978 (144, repr.)
LITERATURE Wright 1929, 1, at pl.36, repr.; Blunt 1959, p.68; Bindman 1977, p.139; Butlin 1981, pp.312–13 no.368, colour pl.346

From September 1800 until September 1803 Blake lived in a cottage at Felpham near Chichester, Sussex, under the patronage of the poet, biographer and man of letters William Hayley (1745–1820), to whom he had been recommended by John Flaxman. Although he was able to continue his work for Thomas Butts and other patrons, and to write much of the text of Milton, a lot of his time was taken up with increasingly uncongenial projects given him by the well-meaning but uncomprehending Hayley. These included decorating Hayley's library, painting miniature portraits and illustrating Hayley's poems and biographies of Cowper and Romney.

This watercolour shows the Church of St Mary and, in the centre, Hayley's house ‘The Turret’. Blake's cottage was once identified as that shown between the two towers, but has now been established as that lit up by the perhaps visionary beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds on the right; it is similar in its general shape, with a lower annex on the right, though not in details of fenestration, to the illustration of ‘Blake's Cottage at Felpham’ on plate 36 of Milton (repr. Morchard Bishop, Blake's Hayley, 1951, between pp.160 and 161; Bishop also reproduces photographs of the cottage and of ‘The Turret’, and George Engleheart's drawing of c.1810 of the latter, showing the original appearance of the tower). The large mill on the left was a prominent feature in Felpham at the time but has since been destroyed.

It is tempting to see this watercolour as Blake's first reaction to the prospect that opened up with the move to Felpham. As he wrote to John Flaxman on 21 September 1800, three days after his arrival, ‘Felpham is a sweet place for Study, because it is more Spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her Golden Gates; her windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen, & my Cottage is also a Shadow of their houses’ (Keynes Writings 1957, p.802).

This work was formerly inventoried by the Tate Gallery as no.3694 xii.


Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990