Although Blake is now noted for his extreme individuality, his work emerged from a moment of experimentation and innovation in British art more generally. The foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, an upsurge in Britain’s imperial and commercial fortunes, and a maelstrom of new ideas in philosophy, politics and aesthetics inspired many artists towards creative risk-taking.
The works shown together here highlight some of the contemporary artists that Blake emulated early in his career, including the acclaimed draughtsman John Hamilton Mortimer, the eccentric Swiss-born history painter Henry Fuseli, and the illustrator and painter Thomas Stothard. The enduring influence of these artists can be seen in the art made by Blake throughout his life. Examples of Blake’s work as a professional printmaker can also be seen here, executed in the conventional techniques of line engraving and stipple.