Not many people would associate Felpham in Bognor Regis with divine revelation, but the village had a profound impact on one of Britain’s most celebrated artists.

William Blake moved to the place he would come to think of as the “sweetest spot on Earth” in 1800, working under the patronage of writer William Hayley – who he would later describe as a “spiritual enemy”, albeit indirectly. He left three years later.

A display of Blake’s work at Petworth, open for another two weeks, expertly examines the deep impression Felpham left on the artist, from the fantastical visions he experienced there to the inclusion of the sea in his later works (Blake had never lived anywhere other than London before relocating to Sussex).

In one of Blake’s only known landscape works, a beam of light shines down on his humble Sussex cottage – symbolising his perception that there was something transcendent about the region.

Fittingly, though, the exhibition starts with Blake’s portrait of John Milton, author of the epic poem Paradise Lost that looms large over Blake’s portrayals of biblical scenes.

The Fall Of Man and A Vision Of The Last Judgement, placed side-by-side in the display, act as companion pieces in all their nightmarish detail – the former painting manages to fit Eden, God, the lamb of God, Christ, Adam, Eve and Satan into one frame.

The exhibition treats Blake’s complex views on faith with appropriate care. The Sacrifice Of Jephthah’s Daughter, shown near the end of the gallery, is said to “represent the pitfalls of unquestioning religion”. In other words, Blake thought you couldn’t take the word of the Bible completely as read.

After A Vision – and its traditional Christian notions of justness and sin – comes the extraordinary Satan Arousing The Rebel Angels, in which the devil is rendered as an almost herculean figure, a Greek marble sculpture of a man.

Satan wears a remorseful expression, mirroring the breadth of expression of the same character in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Blake’s work is noteworthy for its moral ambiguity. If The Fall Of Man depicts a world that has awakened to the possibility of temptation and corruptness after Adam and Eve’s misdemeanours, Blake also explore the after-life of the sinful. Indeed, Satan Calling Up His Legions seems to ask the question: what happens to the fallen angels?

It is to Petworth’s credit that the display is ordered in a way that means the artist’s world view is further clouded and complicated with every new portrait.

One thing Blake was sure of was his belief in the metaphysical. Plate 29 of his sprawling work Milton: A Poem shows John Milton supposedly possessing Blake’s spirit via a comet that strikes the artist on the foot.

It wasn’t the only revelation he had in Sussex. Blake saw the county as the closest thing to Albion that he had ever seen, a bucolic ideal and a haven of purity.

The exhibition demonstrates how Blake came to link the splendour of Sussex with heightened creative expression, and this is born out in the biographical facts that accompany the art work. In his time in Felpham, Blake developed the two works for which he would become best known: Jerusalem and Milton: A Poem.

This all while he was being accused of assault and sedition, leading to a trial in Chichester. William Hayley, a staunch believer in Blake’s “genius” paid for a top-notch lawyer to get Blake off the charge.

Eventually Blake moved away from the seaside. His health was suffering due to his draughty cottage and the court case had taken a lot out of him. As the exhibition shows, though, he would continue to carry the spirit of Sussex with him. The rolling waves of the ocean can be seen in two later works, The Sea Of Time And Space and The Angel Marking Dante With The Sevenfold ‘P’.

The Petworth display is a tremendously thought-provoking study of the impact of place upon identity and creative output. Sussex has a long history of inspiring artists and writers and it’s a pleasure to see that link explored with such clarity and depth in this exhibition.

If you’re planning a weekend day-trip make sure you pay a visit.