A Year in Review

The year of 2020 saw some wonderful groundwork to the Blake Cottage project.

January began with Tate Britain’s Blake show, a once-in-a-generation exhibition that brought together artworks and visitors from around the world. And at the end of the year there was the first ever Conference on William Hayley, Blake’s patron who invited William and Catherine down to the Cottage in Felpham.

Funding for the Cottage proved elusive in this year of Covid when many of the grant making organisations were retrenching and diverting their funds to existing projects in order to keep them alive during this, the most difficult of all years for organisations in the arts and culture.

Happily just before lockdown there was a magnificent funding campaign that offers the Cottage a fine prospect. In just ten weeks a sum of £3.5m was secured for the purchase, renovation and endowment of Derek Jarman’s cottage in Dungeness. A model for Blake’s Cottage itself.

Pace and Purpose are different beasts and during this year we have kept our focus firmly on the grand purpose. To create a home for Blake that celebrates his genius in all its diversity.

To this end we have encouraged visits from individuals involved in fine art, theatre, poetry, ceramics, music, antinomianism and the green movement.

People often treasure the Cottage because it was where Blake wrote the words that became the anthem Jerusalem, while others locate its importance in its challenge to authority, the place where Blake was accused of treason.

But there are a myriad of reasons why the Cottage should open its doors and welcome visitors beneath its roof of rusted gold. One of these minute particulars is the picture known as Newton. There were two executions of this monoprint, the first in 1795 where it formed part of the collection known as the 12 large colour prints. But the version we are most familiar with, and the one shown above, was made after the turn of the century, and perhaps in the very Cottage in Felpham itself, where Blake had the opportunity to explore the ocean pools at low tide.

Of course, with Blake you can never tell the provenance of his imagination. Is the picture that of Newton or an illustration from the Bible?

When he prepared the heavens I was there:

when he set a compass upon the face of the depth

Proverbs 8.27 of the King James Bible