The River of Life

William Blake, 1757 - 1827

The River of Life

William Blake 1757 - 1827


A reproduction produced by the Vasari Society of a drawing by William Blake. A river winds down the centre of this colourful drawing, with a large sun surrounded by angels at the end of it. The figure of a woman dressed in white holding hands with two children is sweeping up above the river, floating on the air. A nude male figure is sweeping down towards them. Three further figures in long, flowing clothes are pictured above the water: one on either side of the drawing playing flute-like instruments, and another stooping down. There are single-storey buildings with columns on the riverbanks, and fruit-laden trees overhang the river. Several people are standing outside the buildings; a woman cradles a baby on the left, and another reaches up to pick one of the fruits. Text from the accompanying booklet produced by the Vasari Society: "17. WILLIAM BLAKE (b. 1775; d. 1827) THE RIVER OF LIFE Collection of Walford Graham-Robertson, Esq. Pen and Indian ink, with washes of grey, blue, yellow, green, red and brown. Signed on the drawing W. B. and inscribed on the border at the lower right corner Rev. C. XXII. V. 1 and 2. 30.6 x 33.8 cm. (12 x 13 1/4 in.), with border (3.1 cm. : 1 1/4 in.) rules and tinted on same paper by the artist. Reproduced in half-tone, Burlington Magazine, Vol. IX, p. 160. The motive of the design comes from the opening verses of the last chapter of Revelation: 'And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.' The river is conceived to flow through a street of the New Jerusalem, and Blake shows us doorways opening on the river bank, with men and women walking about in front of the houses or plucking the fruit. The spiritual form of a mother hand-in-hand with her two children moves up the stream with a swift motion; and the sense of swiftness is enhanced by the downward rush from the opposite direction of a beatified being who flies to meet her. It is doubtless the reunion of husband and wife. The illusion of buoyant floating movement in the air is given in the foreground figures with even more than Blake's habitual felicity; and the drawing has almost nothing of the discordant elements and unhappy mannerisms which often mar his work. L. B."

Object Name

The River of Life

Creators Name

William Blake

Date Created


accession number


Collection Group

fine art

Place of creation



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