William Blake at the Ashmolea, advertising bannerA painting of Covent Garden Market in the late 18th century is the first thing to greet visitors to the Blake exhibition currently showing at the Ashmolean.

I’m not keen on conventional European art, but I quite liked this – mainly I think because it was full of information about people – their clothes, their interactions, their work, how they went about their daily lives. When I went on Friday there were two small girls sitting in front of it with worksheets which had been got up by the museum in an attempt to make the exhibition “family friendly”.

“Think of three words to describe what’s going on “


“Clippety-clopping – is clippety-clopping a word?”

“You could put clip-clopping.”

“I writed shouting. Mummy! I writed shouting!”

Moving on, I was interested to learn that William Blake never went to school; instead, he was apprenticed at an early age to a print maker. I wonder whether this lack of formal education was a factor in the development of his later creativity? Did he benefit from not being taught that there are right and wrong ways of thinking or doing?

Later, we learned that Blake believed that creative ideas are present at birth “like a garden ready planted and sewn (sic) – there to be nourished and developed”.

I don’t know whether the girl at the exhibition actually wrote “clippety-clopping” or whether she substituted “shouting” as being more likely to be a “right” answer. I know that at the same age I wouldn’t have even uttered the word “clippety-clopping” for fear of ridicule or put-down. (As it happens, I don’t remember doing anything as remotely interesting as looking at a painting and being asked to think about it).

“Clippety-clopping” strikes me as a very fine word; a very descriptive word; a very creative word. I hope she writed it.

William Blake – Apprentice & Master is at the Ashmolean Museum until 1st March 2015