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Songs of Innocence and of Experience: The Tyger

Artist:
William Blake (British, London 1757–1827 London)
Date:
ca. 1825
Medium:
Relief etching printed in orange-brown ink and hand-colored with watercolor and gold
Dimensions:
sheet: 6 3/16 x 5 9/16 in. (15.7 x 14.1 cm)
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1917
Accession Number:
17.10.42
Not on view
One of Blake's best-known verses, "The Tyger," comes from the Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Blake originally produced this small, richly illustrated collection of short lyric verses as two separate books, in 1789 and 1794, then combined them into a single volume in the latter year. Although its small, colorful format recalls a children's book, its message is sophisticated and complex. Innocence and Experience contrast human existence, before and after the Fall. The pastoral poems in Innocence express religious faith and acceptance, and exhibit fine detail and flowing lines; the bardic verses in Experience, by contrast, convey disillusionment and anger, and employ bolder outlines. Published during the height of the Terror, the French Revolution left its mark on the second book.
Blake produced only twenty-four copies of the combined volume; this page comes from one of the last, prepared about 1825 for the painter and printmaker Edward Calvert (1799–1883). Its deep, saturated hues and distinctive ornamental borders (found on only one other copy) contrast with the lighter, paler colors of editions printed three decades earlier. The book remained in the Calvert family until the late nineteenth century; in 1917, it became the first work purchased for the Metropolitan Museum's new Department of Prints by its distinguished first curator, William M. Ivins, Jr.
Tate Britain, London. "William Blake," November 9, 2000–February 11, 2001.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "William Blake," March 29, 2001–June 24, 2001.

Bindman 1978.248; Binyon 1926.221
Laurence Binyon The Engraved Designs of William Blake. London, 1926, cat. no. 221.

David Bindman, Deirdre Toomey The Complete Graphic Works of William Blake. London and New York, 1978, Copy Y, cat. no. 221.



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