Original William Blake painting to go on loan

William Blake artwork on display at Arlington Court
Published : 30 Sep 2015 Last update : 01 Oct 2015

At Arlington Court in North Devon, the National Trust care for nearly 5000 items in their collection ranging from model boats no bigger than a 10p piece to voluminous Victorian wedding gowns and elegant family portraits. One of the most significant items in the collection is an original pen and ink drawing by William Blake. It is not known how the picture by the famous poet, artist and social critic came to be at Arlington, but its discovery was almost as mysterious as the image itself.

Paula Martin, House and Collections Manager for the National Trust at Arlington Court explained, “Legend has it that the framed picture was found on top of a wardrobe in the housemaid’s pantry when the National Trust acquired the house in 1949. It’s not known how long it rested there, but it is suspected to have been purchased direct from William Blake by Colonel John Chichester in the 1820s. Tastes change so it may be that a later member of the Chichester family had it put away for safe keeping and it was forgotten. We carry out regular inventory checks, so such a treasure wouldn’t go unnoticed in the present day.”
The Blake picture is known as “The Sea or Time and Space (Vision of the Circle of the Life of Man)” which is a quotation from Blake’s work ’Prophetic Book Vala’. The image is inspired by Greek mythology and could be taken from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. The exhibition at RAMM is entitled ‘Whatever the Weather’ and explores the British obsession with the weather, whether writing about it, talking about it or drawing it.
Also going on loan to the exhibition from Arlington Court is a banjo barometer by J. Hicks of London from 1880. This was given to Arlington by Miss Cecilia Chichester, sister to the famous yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester, they were from another branch of the Chichester family.
The Blake picture and barometer will be on loan to the RAMM from November 2015 until April 2016.