The First Book of Urizen, Plate 7, by William Blake, one of the etchings purchased by Tate Britain. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

It is wonderful that eight newly discovered works of art by William Blake have been purchased by Tate Britain. Wonderful, just, and heartwarming, because Blake is an artist who does not always get his due. Loving Blake is natural when you’re a teenager. Some people turn against him later on and see him as a hamfisted draughtsman, a Hanoverian hippy.

In reality Blake is the essential British artist. He is the only one we have ever produced who really captures the national genius. This is because he was a writer as well as an artist – and the English language is Britain’s true cultural achievement. We are not, repeat not, a nation of artists. The lack of great artists in our history is hilarious when you set it aside most other European nations. We have no Titian, Rembrandt or Picasso. We don’t even have a Dali. But we do have William Blake.


Jonathan Jones