James Smetham

The Eve of St Agnes


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
James Smetham 1821–1889
Ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 83 × 102 mm
Bequeathed by W.C. Alexander 1917

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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.

Gallery label, September 2004

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