The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of a fully searchable electronic edition of Blake’s 116 water color illustrations to Thomas Gray’s poems. The Archive first published these designs in April 2005 in our Preview mode. This republication substantially increases the number and range of Blake’s pictorial motifs available for searching on the Archive.
Blake’s illustrations respond to Gray’s poems in a variety of ways, but always with respect for the specifics in the text. Many motifs are visualizations of Gray’s metaphoric images. The Gray illustrations share iconographic and stylistic similarities with the Night Thoughts designs; both series are indebted to the pictorial imagery Blake developed in his illuminated books of the early- and mid-1790s. For the more comic passages in Gray’s poems, Blake deployed a broad, almost caricature-like style. Many of the designs emphasize the imagination at work in the world through inspired acts of reading, writing, and performing music.