Friday, October 28, 2011


Othello and Desdemona
Dated about 1780
from Thomas Butts collection
Museum of Fine Arts Boston
acquired 1890
In the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is a group of Blake's illustrations to Shakespeare which are said to have been painted around 1780. Each picture is a close-up portrait of one or two characters in a play of Shakespeare. The pictures were later in Thomas Butts' collection although the estimated date of production is years before Butts is known to have been purchasing Blake's art.

In 1779 Blake had completed his apprenticeship as an engraver with Basire. He was enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools and was seeking to establish himself as a painter as well as an engraver. The Shakespeare pictures are conventional subjects painted in a conventional style, far from the subject matter and methods of production Blake was to employ as he matured.

Here are more of Blake's illustrations for Shakespeare's plays in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston:
Lear and Cordelia

Cordelia and Sleeping Lear

Lear Grasping a Sword

Falstaff and Prince Hal

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

Juliet Asleep

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