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First major William Blake exhibition opens at Russia's Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art
William Blake's color prints with pen & ink and watercolors are on display at the opening of an exhibition of the British visionary artist in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Russia. The exhibition of Blake's watercolors and engravings opens in Moscow. This is the first time his work will be presented to the Russian public. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.

MOSCOW.- An exhibition of the work of the innovative British artist, William Blake (1757-1827), opened at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, Moscow. William Blake and British Visionary Art is the first major exhibition to present Blake’s visual art in Russia. It is the first exhibition to explore Blake and his legacy and it will run until 19 February 2012. The exhibition is a collaborative project between Tate and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art in partnership with the British Council.

Drawn mainly from Tate’s Collection alongside works generously lent from other British collections, the exhibition consists of approximately 110 of Blake's works, including many of his best known images such as The Ghost of a Flea c.1819-20. It also includes the recently discovered hand-coloured etchings from the major prophetic work The First Book of Urizen 1796 c.1818.

Although mainly overlooked during his lifetime, Blake's impact and influence on later generations of artists, writers and musicians has been enormous. His visionary ideas, and his ability to convey these in both poetry and painting, remain a major reference point in British culture today and this show aims to reveal his remarkable art and its visual legacy to a Russian audience. The expression of spiritual values through bodily form is the hallmark of Blake’s visionary art and came to influence both the Symbolist art of the later nineteenth century and the neo-romantic revival of the 1930s. Many of the artists associated with these movements saw Blake as a pioneer in imagining infinite possibilities for sensory and spiritual experience. His work has been a reference point for artists nationally and internationally and this exhibition will include over twenty works by British artists who have been influenced by Blake including Samuel Palmer, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Piper and Francis Bacon.

As part of the Blake in Russia project a new Russian translation of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience has been jointly published by the British Council and the State Library of Foreign Literature. Blake was not so much a poet, printmaker and artist but rather that his chosen form allowed all these things to come together on one page. His illustrations were never set along aside the poems, and the poems were not typeset. Rather he actually made prints of his poems and pictures together. This is the first time that Blake’s illustrations have ever been published alongside his poetry in Russia.

Dr Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain said: “I am delighted that we have been able to work so closely with the Pushkin Museum again to present one of Britain’s greatest artists, William Blake. He is well known as a writer and revolutionary thinker in Russia and I’m very interested to hear how Russian audiences will respond to his visual art.”

Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts, British Council, said: “We're delighted to be working with Tate and the Pushkin Museum to present the work of England's greatest poet-painter in Moscow. Initiatives like this help British artists and institutions reach huge audiences and strengthen the relationship between our two countries. At the beginning of the year the British Council worked with the London Book Fair to bring over 50 Russian writers. In summer, in partnership with the Russian Space Agency, we unveiled a statue of Yuri Gagarin on the Mall. Winter starts with the work of a great British revolutionary being shown in the Pushkin; and early next year we will show the work of Henry Moore in the Kremlin Museums, in the very heart of Moscow.”

This is the second exhibition Tate has worked closely with the Pushkin Museum in Moscow on to bring the work of an internationally renowned British artist to Russia. The first was of the work of Turner in 2008-9 which was seen by 200,000 visitors.

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