Honorary Members‘Exuberance Is Beauty’ – William Blake

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Many of our honorary members have, if not a direct link to Soho then at least a spiritual one, sharing many of the bohemian, avant-garde, eccentric qualities for which the area is renowned. Very few could claim, however, to have been actually brought up there. One such, born in Broad Street, (now Broadwick St) in 1757 is the English poet, prophet, painter and printmaker, William Blake who created some of the most iconic images in British art and who, even though we think we might be a tiny bit scared of him, (anyone who claims to have visions of angels in trees we tend to try and avoid or at least move the gin bottle away from…) we’d welcome him at our table any day of the week.

Radical and rebellious, his originality, his mystical, idiosyncratic and challenging views on religion, philosophy, politics and sex drove him to commit to his work to such an extent that even his close friends began to describe him as a bit unhinged. Almost completely unrecognised during his lifetime those contemporary critics who did see his work were rather more vituperative, one calling his work ‘nonsense, unintelligibleness and egregious vanity,’ referring to Blake as “an unfortunate lunatic’, and ‘one of those ingenious persons … whose eccentricities were still more remarkable than their professional abilities.’

Today he’s lauded for both his remarkable insight into society from the outside as well as his insight into the spiritual nature of man. Perhaps the truth is that ultimately it’s the world in which we live that’s insane, not Blake after all and through his extraordinary vision he was merely trying to bring some sanity to it…

Excitingly, ‘William Blake: The Artist’, a collection of 300 original works, including his watercolours, paintings and prints opens at Tate Britain in September 2019. It will be the largest show of Blake’s work for almost 20 years. 

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