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William Blake at St Paul's Cathedral
William Blake (1757-1827) was a painter, printmaker and poet. He was also a mystic and radical activist. His ideas were so ahead of his time that he was largely unappreciated during his lifetime. It was only after his death that his writings, drawings and paintings drew the recognition that they deserve. A memorial to William Blake was made by H. Poole in 1927 for the centenary of his death and can be found in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Today one of Blake’s most famous pieces is Jerusalem – sung here by the Choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral – which comes from the preface of Blake’s epic, illustrated poem Milton: A Poem in two books. It was set to music by Hubert Parry in 1916. In it Blake sets out his vision of a world restored and renewed. The first verse hints at the ancient legend that a young Jesus visited England with Joseph of Arimathea (though it is worth noting that you can answer ‘no’ to each of the questions asked in the first verse of Jerusalem). The second verse calls on people everywhere to strive to build a new Jerusalem in ‘England’s green and pleasant Land’. This poem gives a helpful insight into Blake’s view of the world. His writing was influential on the Romantic Movement, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that gloried in nature and the beauty of the past but he was also radical politically and, through his art and poetry, sought to transform the world in which he lived for the better.
St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to have been able to collaborate with Tate Britain in commemorating this remarkable and influential poet and artist, accompanying the largest exhibition of Blake for a generation at Tate Britain (until the 2nd February 2020), with a projection of Blake’s final masterpiece (The Ancient of Days 1827) onto the cathedral’s dome from the 28th November to 1st December 2019. We will also be hosting a lecture given by Martin Myrone, lead curator of British art until 1800 at the Tate Gallery chaired by Paula Gooder, Chancellor of the Cathedral, and. The title of the lecture will be Religion and the Art of William Blake and will take place on the 9th January 2020, between 1pm and 2pm in the Wren Suite. Click here for free tickets.