William Blake

Plate 2 of ‘Urizen’: ‘Teach these Souls to Fly’

?1796

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
William Blake 1757–1827
Part of
Urizen
Medium
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 109 x 102 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1922
Reference
N03696

Display caption

This design was made for Blake's poem called The Book of Urizen. The woman
is Enitharmon, who in Blake's mythology symbolises Pity. In Urizen she is made pregnant by Los and 'groaning Produc'd
a man Child to the light.'

 

This child was Orc (symbolising Revolt), who is seen here with his mother. Los
was jealous of his son, and chained Orc
to a mountain. Here Enitharmon seems
to be introducing Orc to the idea of
liberty, before he is finally chained up.

 

Gallery label, September 2002

Catalogue entry

N03696 Plate 2 of Urizen: ‘Teach these Souls to Fly’ 1794/? 1796

N 03696 / B 261 5
Colour-printed relief etching finished in ink and watercolour 109×102 (4 5/16×4) on paper 208×187 (8 3/16×7 3/8)
Inscribed ‘“Teach these Souls to Fly”’ below design
Purchased from Mrs John Richmond (Grant-in-Aid) 1922
PROVENANCE John Giles, sold Christie's 2–5 February 1881, 3rd day (440) £2.6.0 bt Dr Richard Sisley; his daughter Mrs John Richmond
EXHIBITED Paris and Vienna 1937 (6, repr.); English Romantic Art, Arts Council tour 1947 (7)
LITERATURE Damon 1924, p.355; Keynes and Wolf 1953, pp.70–3, 84–6; Beer 1969, p.79; Paul Miner, ‘Visions in the Darksome Air: Aspects of Blake's Biblical Symbolism’, Rosenfeld 1969, p.264; Bentley Blake Books 1977, pp.176, 183; Mitchell 1978, p.144; Butlin 1981, p.139 no.261 5, pl.354

This design illustrates the ‘Preludium’ of The First Book of Urizen of which the first copies were made in 1794 (repr. Erdman Illuminated Blake 1974, p.184). It was reissued in A Small Book of Designs, the copy of which in the British Museum is also dated 1794 on the first design (Butlin 1981, no.260 1; this design is no.260 12, pl.316). The version in the Tate Gallery almost certainly comes from the second copy of this collection, in which the date on the first design has been altered to 1796 (Butlin no.261 1, pl.350). The designs in this second set were given titles by Blake in matching inscriptions below each composition; many also show signs of having been stitched for binding, as in the case of the Tate Gallery design.

In Urizen, only one book of which was issued, Blake recounts the creation of the world by Urizen, the embodiment of reason unenlightened by the imagination; in this way the Creation is equated with the Fall (Damon 1924, pp.116–21; see also no.25). This design, which occupies the upper part of the page with the writing omitted, shows Enitharmon and her son by Los, Orc; they typify Pity, Poetry and Revolt respectively.

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

You might like