Humanities Field Trip: William Blake exhibition in Oxford

Some of the English Literature Society on a day trip to Oxford, February 2015. Photo: H Weeks

In February  some Humanities students and staff made a day trip to Oxford to see the acclaimed William Blake exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum. William Blake: Apprentice and Master traced Blake’s life through his developing artistic vision, and focused in particular upon his remarkable techniques in print and image.  Blake ran wild as a young boy, drawing and copying when he should have been at school; but his education, learned in the streets, churches and print-shops of London, could not have been better in forming his creativity. The exhibits included variations on plates from Songs of Innocence and Experience and a complete series of Europe: A Prophecy, as well as a recreation of Blake’s workshop at Hercules Buildings, Lambeth (demolished in 1912). Blake’s use of relief etching, whereby the artist painted directly onto the copper plates, adding the text in mirror writing, revealed the artist’s mastery across media; and it demonstrated how Blake pushed the boundaries of conventional technique to breaking point.  Blake’s work (and working practices) manifests what Los states in The Book of Urizen: ‘I must create a system or be enslav’d by another man’s’.

It was the first visit to Oxford for one or two students, and there was much to explore, but one could spend the day absorbing the city’s atmosphere, looking around the Bodleian and wandering among the colleges.  Bethany Norris, second-year English Literature student, took some great photos (and there are more on our Flickr gallery here.

Photos: Bethany Norris

Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark-charmèd, rook-racked, river-rounded…
                                Gerard Manley Hopkins, from ‘Duns Scotus’s Oxford’

We all agreed on three things: that Blake is a genius; that Oxford is beautiful; and that we want to go on more field trips. Thanks to all who joined us and made the visit such a success. More trips are planned for April, and everyone is welcome.

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