Britain blocks export of Blake watercolors

From Associated Press

The British government on Wednesday temporarily blocked the export of 19 watercolors by visionary artist William Blake.

The paintings, “Designs for Blair’s ‘Grave,’ ” were last seen in public in the 1830s, and seven of them had been unknown to modern scholars, the department for culture, media and sport said.

The government’s action gives any potential British buyer until May 30 to raise the purchase price of $16.5 million to keep the watercolors in Britain.


Commissioned in 1805 by publisher R.H. Cromek to illustrate “The Grave” by the Scottish poet Robert Blair, the watercolors were discovered in a bookshop in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2001. They were acquired by a second dealer, who discovered their true value -- leading to a court fight between the two dealers.

The court case was settled in 2002, and the paintings’ sale to an unidentified buyer was disclosed shortly afterward, according to a report in the Art Newspaper. The name and nationality of the buyer who wishes to take the paintings out of the country has not been disclosed.