James Smetham The Eve of St Agnes 1858

Artwork details

James Smetham 1821–1889
The Eve of St Agnes
Date 1858
Medium Ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 83 x 102 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by W.C. Alexander 1917
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

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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.

September 2004

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