William Blake – A Gallery
Dissident Reality presents a gallery of work by seminal British artist William Blake – numbering among his admirers Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who considered him a “man of Genius”) and William Wordsworth (who made his own copies of several Blake pieces).
Despite being largely unrecognised while still alive, visionary British painter, engraver, poet and printmaker William Blake (1757-1827) is now held to be a seminal participant in the so-called ‘Romantic Age’. Based in London for all but three years of his life, Blake’s idiosyncratic worldview caused him to be largely disregarded by his peers, many of whom held him to be completely insane. Nevertheless, he is now recognised as one of the greatest contributors to English literature and art – perhaps being best known for illuminated visionary poetry such as ‘Songs of Innocence’ (1789), ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ (1790-1793) and ‘Songs of Experience’ (1794). Moreover, his creatively expressive work contains many philosophical and mystical undercurrents, following the Bible yet contrary to the Church of England (and, in fact, almost all other forms of organised religion).
As a young boy, Blake had described strange visions – variously seeing “God put his head to the window” and “a tree filled with angels”. Blake’s parents, observing he was a little different, allowed him to study at home until the age of ten, when – following a desire to become a painter – he began to attend drawing school. Aged twelve, Blake started to compose poetry at age twelve and at fourteen he began a seven-year apprenticeship as an engraver (apparently due to art school proving too costly for his family). One of Blake’s engraving assignments was to sketch the tombs at Westminster Abbey, providing exposure to a variety of Gothic styles from which he would continue to draw inspiration throughout his later work.
A dedicated nonconformist who associated with leading radical thinkers of the age including ‘mother of Feminism’ Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Paine, Blake famously declared in one poem, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s”.
Click thumbnails for full-size image