James Smetham

The Eve of St Agnes

1858

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

Medium
Ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 83 x 102 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by W.C. Alexander 1917
Reference
N03204

Display caption

From early on in his career Smetham was an admirer of Blake and his work. Smetham's deep sympathy for the artist revealed itself in a long and perceptive article about Blake which he published in 1869. In the eyes of his friend D.G Rossetti, the intensity of Smetham's vision and his highly individual inventiveness was akin to Blake's. This drawing illustrates a passage from John Keats's poem 'The Eve of St Agnes' which was published in 1820. Madeline, with her lover Porphyro, is fleeing by night from that 'mansion foul' which is her home. This is probably a sketch for a picture which Smetham exhibited in Liverpool in 1859.

Gallery label, September 2004