St Paul’s lit up by William Blake art installation


William Blake’s final masterpiece will illuminate the iconic dome of St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the artist’s birthday from 28 November to 1 December. The dramatic illustration Ancient of Days 1827 was described by Blake as ‘the best I have ever finished’ and will be visible across London this weekend.

Tate Britain is currently staging the UK’s largest survey of works by Blake for a generation and has collaborated with St Paul’s Cathedral – home to the most visited Blake memorial in the UK – to recreate his vision on a monumental scale.

Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist, proposing vast frescos that were never realised. Living and working in London for most of his life, the artist imagined adorning the walls of churches and public buildings in the city. The cityscape of London, dominated by St Paul’s Cathedral, inspired Blake’s powerful artworks and writing.

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The William Blake projection can be seen from all over. All photos by Alex Wojcik (Tate)

His well-known poem Holy Thursday 1789 refers to ‘the high dome of Pauls’. Created as a frontispiece for the 1794 prophetic book Europe a Prophecy, Ancient of Days is on loan to the exhibition at Tate Britain from the collection of the Whitworth, The University of Manchester and has become one of Blake’s best-known images. Through projections, Tate Britain will reenvision the small yet imposing illustration on an awe-inspiring scale, more than two centuries later.

Shaped by his personal struggles in a period of political terror and oppression, Blake’s radical beliefs meant he received little recognition in his own lifetime. November 28 2019 would have been his 262nd birthday. In the almost two centuries since his death Blake has become one of Britain’s most beloved artists and an inspiration to generations of musicians, writers, artists, and performers worldwide. Buried in relative obscurity in a common grave, the memorial to William Blake now installed in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral is visited by thousands each year.

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Check it out on your commute home this week

Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, said: “Blake was an artist of gigantic imagination and vision, who has fired the creative ambition of generations. Seeing Blake’s work on a huge scale on this iconic building restores a sense of his towering presence in British culture”

Dr Paula Gooder, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to continue our partnership with Tate by hosting this projection of the Ancient of Days onto the dome of the Cathedral.  This collaboration is made even more special because of the memorial in our Crypt to William Blake.  We hope that the projection of this iconic image will be an inspiration to all who see it.”

The projections will run from 28 November – 1 December, from 4:30-9pm each evening.