William Blake is a truly unique figure in British art: painter, printmaker, illustrator, poet and radical thinker. His eccentric ideas meant that some saw him as a genius while others thought him mad. He often struggled to make a living, relying on sympathetic patrons to buy his work and introduce him to clients.
In 1820 the artist John Linnell secured a commission for Blake to illustrate Robert Thornton’s Pastorals of Virgil. The images were made as wood engravings, a medium Blake had never used before. Although Thornton did not like the unconventional and oddly archaic results, they became a critical influence on the visionary landscapes of Samuel Palmer who was entranced by the ‘visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of paradise; models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry’.