William Blake is believed to have completed this artwork in around 1794-1796, with the etching then having touches of watercolour and ink added over the top to produce the result seen in front of us here. The artist initially completed a drawing of this figure in 1780 (Victoria and Albert Museum) and then decided to re-visit the theme nearly two decades later. He would even return to Albion Rose again in the following century. Of interest to his native population, Albion is actually the ancient and mythological name of Britain, giving these artworks a further element of patriotism, though artist Blake is already adored and respected across the country in any case. His poetry has become a part of the culture, with certain lyrics being well known to us all today. This particular piece from the mid-1790s was an entry for a larger project by the artist which he titled, A Large Book of Designs.
The mythological tale of Britain explains that Albion was a son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and that he would eventually form the island nation, many years before it was actually formed in real life. Blake would take inspiration from a variety of sources for his work, including his own poetry and also many items of mythology from other cultures and nations. Many of the figures related to the tales of Albion would also appear within his work in other examples, such as drawings and watercolours. He regularly re-visited particular themes and liked to tackle them in alternative mediums as his career progressed, and new ideas occurred to him on a regular basis.
The original plate for Albion Rose can be found in the British Museum in central London, UK. This prestigious venue hosts a great variety of art and antiquities from many different civilisations, most of which dates from the influential British Empire. Some of the highlights include a number of Japanese paintings as well as some sculpture from Ancient Greece and Rome. London itself is a city which boasts a fantastic selection of cultural locations, with art, theatre and music well catered for many different tastes. Many of Blake's other artworks can also be found elsewhere in the city, though not all is on permanent display, so check ahead if there is something specific that you really want to see in person. Many of his best designs were also turned into series of prints, and these have been dispersed more widely, across Europe and some even exist today in the US.