Swedenborg and the English Romantics: items from the Swedenborg Collection

Emanuel Swedenborg | William Blake | S T Coleridge | C A Tulk | Philip James de Loutherbourg  | John Flaxman | J J G Wilkinson and others

Please join us for the openign night on Thursday 18 October, RSVP HERE

Open evening: Thursday October 18th, 6pm – 9pm (with drinks and canapés) | Exhibition dates: October 17th - November 2nd | Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm

in association with Bloomsbury Festival 2018

Drawn directly from the collection at Swedenborg House, "Swedenborg and the English Romantics" explores the many previously unexplored links links between writers and artists such as William Blake, S T Coleridge, John Flaxman, J J G Wilkinson and others, and their connection to the work of the Swedish visionary and scientist, Emanuel Swedenborg. The exhibition will include previously unseen archival material. 

Curated by Stephen McNeilly

ad caput capitis

the lost skulls of Swedenborg | Iain Sinclair | Jeremy Millar | Colin Dickey

Exhibition of items from the Swedenborg Archive and talks by Iain Sinclair and Colin Dickey 

Exhibition runs 18-21 October 2017, 9.30 am-5.00 pm daily | talks, Thursday 19 October 2017 6.00 pm | additional artwork by Jeremy Millar | curated by Stephen McNeilly | Swedenborg House, 20/21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH | FREE | organized in conjunction with the Bloomsbury Festival

Book here for tickets for Iain Sinclair and Colin Dickey talks 19 October 6.00 pm

Swedenborg’s skull has long been an object of mystery, intrigue and misappropriation. Stolen twice from his coffin in London, it was later replaced with a ‘ringer’. This in turn was only discovered when the real skull resurfaced in Swansea during the 1950s. It was later put up for auction at Sothebys, and over the years both skulls have been the subject of intense literary focus, giving rise to numerous poems, essays, books, replicas and eulogies.

Organized in conjunction with the Bloomsbury Festival ad caput capitis: the lost skulls of Swedenborg offers an opportunity to explore rare and previously unseen items from the Swedenborg Archive that bear witness to this uncommon story. There will also be new works by the artist Jeremy Millar. To accompany the exhibition London writer Iain Sinclair and author Colin Dickey will each speak of their own work, both literary and academic, in relation to the lost skulls Swedenborg.

IAIN SINCLAIR is a writer, poet and filmmaker known as a chronicler and critic of ever-changing contemporary London. His works include DownriverLondon OrbitalBlake’s LondonSwimming to Heaven; and The Last London: True Fictions from an Unreal City.

COLIN DICKEY is a US writer, speaker and academic who contributes regularly to LA Review of Books and Lapham’s Quarterly. His works include Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for GeniusAfterlives of the Saints: Stories from the Ends of Faith; and Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places.

JEREMY MILLAR is an artist, writer, curator and senior tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. His recent solo exhibitions include M/W, Muzeum Stzuki, Lodz; XDO XOL, Whitstable Biennale (both 2014); and The Oblate, Southampton City Art Gallery (2013).

STEPHEN MCNEILLY is Museum Director at the Swedenborg Society, editor of the Swedenborg Archive series, and curator of Now It is Permitted: 24 Wayside Pulpits.

The Humble Servant

Ceramic art inspired by William Blake and Swedenborg | Diane Eagles

18 October-30 November 2017 | Mon-Fri 9.30 am - 5.00 pm daily | Swedenborg House Bookshop, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH | Free entry

Open evening Thursday 19 October 2017 | 6.00-9.00 pm | refreshments served


The Humble Servant is an exhibition of 4 hand-built ceramic pieces inspired by the engravings of William Blake for a pattern book of Josiah Wedgwood’s queensware tableware in 1817. Adorned with quotations from Swedenborg's writings, and echoing the style of Blake’s hand-coloured plates from his Lambeth poems, the ceramics replicate creamware of the period, with hand-applied coloured lead glaze and transfer printing.

The pieces recreate some of the items from the series of ceramic designs for Josiah Wedgwood etched by William Blake for the 1817 catalogue of queensware tableware (see left). The designs originate from 1815, at a time when Blake’s financial and public fortunes were at a low ebb. It is likely that John Flaxman, one of the most significant artists employed by Wedgwood (and a founding member of the Swedenborg Society too), was the link for the improbable etching commission. The works are in stark contrast to the visionary imagery Blake is famous for, perhaps indicating his desperate circumstances at the time, and one of the brief letters to Wedgwood shows Blake signing himself ‘humble servant’.

Rather than the Wedgwood etchings being seen as a humiliating and servile act of a forgotten man, the ideas of domestic wares, of service to others, of the giving and taking in of actual and spiritual nourishment, will result in a fitting memorial to Blake, Swedenborg and Flaxman.   

Diane Eagles is a London-based ceramic artist. Diane has exhibited work at The Wellcome Collection, Kingston Guildhall & Morley College, Draper Hall, Dulwich Artists Open House, Morley Gallery, Waterloo, and the Contemporary Crafts & Design Fair, Chelsea. Her work has also featured on the cover of The International Journal of Art Psychotherapy. She is also a founding member of the ceramic artist’s collective, The Associated Clay Workers Union (ACWU).

To view examples of Diane's work, visit her website here.