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Is it worth seeing Blake at the Ashmolean?

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Blake Ashmolean

A stonkingly beautiful day last week on which to see launch of the William Blake: Apprentice and Master exhibition at The Ashmolean in Oxford.

I had been planning to cover the Blake exhibition for Radio Oxford, but it was blown out the water by the Warhol/Morris exhibition at Modern Art Oxford which I just drooled over.

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The two are very different – the Warhol/Morris is a visual treat that, as well as those in the know, attracts luddites like me who can appreciate what they see in front of them without the need to disseminate it. The Blake exhibition is more technical and traditional, focusing on the working life (1757–1827) and work of the revolutionary British print-maker, painter and prophetic poet, from his early apprenticeship as an engraver, through to the 1790s when he was at the height of his powers as artist and poet, and his influence on the next generation of artist-print-makers.

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This is a grown-up exhibition, beautifully appointed, and with many of Blake’s most famous prints. There are some lovely touches like a lifesize reconstruction of Blake’s cramped printing workshop in Lambeth – no bigger than a modern box room, but one where he created some of his most memorable works.

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The reconstruction of Blake’s tiny workspace at 13 Hercules St, Lambeth

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Would I take my kids to see this? In truth no. Your children may be utterly brilliant and capable of seeing the beauty in an 18th century engraving, but at 5, 7 and 12  years old mine *sigh* are not. Certainly by the teens, and with mobile phones on limited ‘exhibition’ ban, you’re probably safe to spend your £8 on a ticket!

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Gorgeous dark walls on which to display Blake’s prints

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William Blake

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On a personal level, I really enjoyed it, because I knew very little about William Blake (though recognised his more famous works). It felt like a very well put together art history lesson, with an added celebrity sprinkling of author Phillip Pullman who gave a speech at the press preview and tried not to look miffed when put him in an arm lock until he signed a book for my son (who I later found out didn’t know who Phillip Pullman was!).

William Blake: Apprentice and Master continues until early March, so you have some time to see it. I’d be interested to know what you think about it, so please get in touch and let me know!

Tickets £10/£8. www.ashmolean.org

 

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