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Winter was commissioned by the Revd John Johnson. It was painted with a companion work, Evening, for a fireplace surround in Johnson's Norfolk rectory. It illustrates lines from The Task, a poem by Johnson's cousin William Cowper: 'O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, | Thy scattered hair with sleet like ashes filled... '. Blake shows the figure holding 'A leafless branch' referring to Winter's 'sceptre'. This 'Winter' is appropriately unthreatening but in his own writing Blake occasionally personifies Winter as a threat to Man, as in his poem The Four Zoas: 'winter spread his wide black wings across from pole to pole'.

October 2001