William Blake
Lear and Cordelia in Prison c.1779

Artwork details

William Blake 1757–1827
Lear and Cordelia in Prison
Date c.1779
Medium Ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 123 x 175 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940
On display at Tate Britain

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Blake became a student in the Royal Academy Schools in October 1779. There he seems to have met the Academy’s President, Sir Joshua Reynolds. One of Blake’s friends later said that when the young Blake showed Reynolds his designs, Reynolds recommended that Blake work with ‘less extravagance and more simplicity, and to correct his drawing.’
This watercolour, showing a scene from Shakespeare’s play King Lear, hints at what Reynolds meant. But the drawing of Niobe, hung above, shows Blake could draw carefully. He was always equally careful in his experiments with different paint mediums.

September 2004

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