William Blake (1757-1827)
William Blake in a portrait by Thomas Phillips.
• Born into a family of
humble origin in 1757.
• Trained as an engraver, he
practised this craft until he
died.
• Deeply a...
1. Life
William Blake, Portrait of Newton, 1795
William Blake
• A political freethinker, he
supported the French
Revolutio...
4
1. Life
William Blake, Portrait of Newton, 1795
William Blake
• The most important literary
influence in his life was th...
• An individual poet, both in terms of his personal
vision and technique.
• Contemporary of the American War of
Independen...
6
• Explored the timeless struggle between the role
of law and reason and the powers of love and
imagination.
• Used symbo...
• Studied the works of Raphael and
Michelangelo  from the latter he
learnt the technique of representing
exaggerated musc...
• Connected visual arts and
writing, creating “illuminated
printing”, a combination of picture
and poetic text. He conside...
3. Blake the artist
• Many of his paintings dealt with
religious subjects.
• Also drew illustrations for the
Bible and a c...
This work reflects his faith in God.
The colours are bright and God is
represented in an unusual position.
His action of m...
The subject is taken from the
Book of Genesis. Adam is
shown growing out of the
earth, a piece of which
Elohim – being the...
3. Blake the artist
12
Adam is stretched out in an
agonizing position almost as if he is
crucified with a serpent coiled a...
• Blake wrote some prophetic
books (The Marriage of
Heaven and Hell, Visions of
the Daughters of Albion,
America and Europ...
14
• They were published as printed
sheets from engraved plates
containing prose, poetry and
illustrations. The plates wer...
• The book describes the poet’s
visit to Hell, a device adopted by
Blake from Dante’s Inferno and
Milton’s Paradise Lost.
...
5. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793)
William Blake
• Blake’s purpose was to reveal to
his readers the repressive...
• The book ends with a series of
revolutionary prophecies and
exhortations urging the different
peoples of the world to re...
Blake believed in the reality of a
spiritual world but he thought that
Christianity was responsible for
the fragmentation ...
“Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason
and Energy, Love
and Hate are
necessary to
Human Existence”
“The Creator can be
at the s...
• Blake considered imagination as the means
through which Man can know the world.
• He did not believe in man’s rationalit...
• For him, faith and intuition were the only source
of true knowledge and he denied the truth of
sensory experience.
• The...
The poet becomes a sort
of prophet who can see
more deeply into reality
and who also tries to
warn man against the
evils o...
• Songs of Innocence is
written in the pastoral mode
with simple imagery. It
deals with childhood as the
symbol of innocen...
24
10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and
Songs of Experience (1794)
William Blake
• Songs of Experience is
more complex and
pe...
25
10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and
Songs of Experience (1794)
William Blake
• The world of innocence is
full of joy and ...
26
10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and
Songs of Experience (1794)
William Blake
• The child becomes the
object of Blake’s po...
Blake uses complex symbolism
However, his language and syntax
are simple. He often adopts an
apparently naive style, using...
Theme  The exploitation of children.
Key images  The cry “weep”, darkness,
the Angel.
Devices  Symbols of innocence (la...
Theme  the causes of man’s lack of
freedom.
Key images  “The mind-forg’d manacles”;
three victims: the chimney-sweeper, ...
Theme  Innocence and the Creation.
Key-images  The Lamb, the child, Christ.
Devices:
•Repeated questions, directed to th...
Theme  God’s power in creation.
Key images  The tiger as seen by
Blake’s poetic imagination: “fearful
symmetry”; “burnin...
15. The Tyger
Devices:
•Repeated (rhetorical) questions.
•Hammering rhythm (like casting a
spell).
•Creator presented as a...
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Blake 2

  1. 1. William Blake (1757-1827) William Blake in a portrait by Thomas Phillips.
  2. 2. • Born into a family of humble origin in 1757. • Trained as an engraver, he practised this craft until he died. • Deeply aware of the great political and social issues of his age. 1. Life William Blake, Portrait of Newton, 1795 William Blake
  3. 3. 1. Life William Blake, Portrait of Newton, 1795 William Blake • A political freethinker, he supported the French Revolution and remained a radical throughout his life. • Strong sense of religion.
  4. 4. 4 1. Life William Blake, Portrait of Newton, 1795 William Blake • The most important literary influence in his life was the Bible. • He claimed he had visions. • Died in 1827.
  5. 5. • An individual poet, both in terms of his personal vision and technique. • Contemporary of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution. 2. Blake the poet William Blake
  6. 6. 6 • Explored the timeless struggle between the role of law and reason and the powers of love and imagination. • Used symbols as part of a deliberate attempt to avoid any kind of realism  it is the “real” world that prevents man from perceiving the greater Reality that lies behind him. 2. Blake the poet William Blake
  7. 7. • Studied the works of Raphael and Michelangelo  from the latter he learnt the technique of representing exaggerated muscular bodies. • Studied the monuments in the old churches of London, particularly Westminster Abbey. • Later he studied at the Royal Academy of Art. 3. Blake the artist Westminster Abbey William Blake Only Connect ... New Directions
  8. 8. • Connected visual arts and writing, creating “illuminated printing”, a combination of picture and poetic text. He considered the two aspects as a counterpart of each other. • Also made many illustrations for other authors’ works, such as Milton’s Paradise Lost. 3. Blake the artist William Blake, Blossom, 1789 William Blake
  9. 9. 3. Blake the artist • Many of his paintings dealt with religious subjects. • Also drew illustrations for the Bible and a cycle of drawings inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. William Blake William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job refer to a series of 22 engraved prints illustrating the biblical book of Job (published in 1826).
  10. 10. This work reflects his faith in God. The colours are bright and God is represented in an unusual position. His action of measuring the sky means the act of creation, and the clouds and the rays of light that start from Him are symbols of the Divine act. The light is the symbol of energy and divine power. The idea he is portraying is that man has the power to create and constrain the universe. The Ancient of Days 3. Blake the artist William Blake William Blake, The Ancient of Days, 1794
  11. 11. The subject is taken from the Book of Genesis. Adam is shown growing out of the earth, a piece of which Elohim – being the Hebrew name for God - holds in his left hand. The colours are duller and darker than those of the previous picture, and the dynamism of the painting is no longer positive and lively, but pitiful and sad. The Elohim Creating Adam 3. Blake the artist William Blake William Blake, The Elohim Creating Adam 1795 Tate Gallery
  12. 12. 3. Blake the artist 12 Adam is stretched out in an agonizing position almost as if he is crucified with a serpent coiled around his legs, while Elohim is reaching for a handful of ‘dust’. This reflects Blake’s view that the God of the Old Testament was a false god. He believed the Fall of Man took place not in the Garden of Eden, but at the time of creation shown here, when man was dragged from the spiritual realm and made material. Blake’s style in the two pictures is allegorical; he mainly employs curved lines in order to create a dynamic and active sensation.
  13. 13. • Blake wrote some prophetic books (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, America and Europe). • These books express Blake’s own personal Romantic and revolutionary beliefs. 4. Blake the prophet William Blake William Blake,Vision of the Daughters of Albion, 1793, London, Tate Gallery.
  14. 14. 14 • They were published as printed sheets from engraved plates containing prose, poetry and illustrations. The plates were then coloured by Blake himself. 4. Blake the prophet William Blake William Blake,Vision of the Daughters of Albion, 1793, London, Tate Gallery.
  15. 15. • The book describes the poet’s visit to Hell, a device adopted by Blake from Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. • Unlike that of Milton or Dante, Blake’s Hell is not as a place of punishment, but contrasts with the authoritarian and regulated Heaven. 5. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793) William Blake William Blake, Title page of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1794.
  16. 16. 5. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793) William Blake • Blake’s purpose was to reveal to his readers the repressive nature of conventional morality and institutional religion. • In the most famous part of the book, the Proverbs of Hell, wisdom is conveyed through provocative and paradoxical proverbs. Their purpose is to energise thought. William Blake, Title page of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1794.
  17. 17. • The book ends with a series of revolutionary prophecies and exhortations urging the different peoples of the world to rebel against religious and political oppression. 5. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793) William Blake William Blake, Title page of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1794.
  18. 18. Blake believed in the reality of a spiritual world but he thought that Christianity was responsible for the fragmentation of consciousness and the dualism characterising man’s life. So he had a vision made up of complementary opposites. “Good and evil, male and female, reason and imagination, cruelty and kindness” 7. Complementary opposites William Blake
  19. 19. “Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to Human Existence” “The Creator can be at the same time the God of love and innocence and the God of energy and violence” He stated: “without Contraries there is no Progression”. The possibility of progress is situated in the tension between contraries. The two states coexist in the human being and in the Creator. 7. Complementary opposites William Blake
  20. 20. • Blake considered imagination as the means through which Man can know the world. • He did not believe in man’s rationality. For him the representatives of a rationalistic and materialistic philosophy were great heretics, since they denied the value of faith and intuition. 8. Blake’s Imagination William Blake
  21. 21. • For him, faith and intuition were the only source of true knowledge and he denied the truth of sensory experience. • The internal mind really builds the external world that man sees. 8. Blake’s Imagination William Blake
  22. 22. The poet becomes a sort of prophet who can see more deeply into reality and who also tries to warn man against the evils of society. 9. The poet William Blake William Blake in a portrait by Thomas Phillips.
  23. 23. • Songs of Innocence is written in the pastoral mode with simple imagery. It deals with childhood as the symbol of innocence. 10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) William Blake Cover engraving from the 1826 edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
  24. 24. 24 10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) William Blake • Songs of Experience is more complex and pessimistic. The poems pair those of Songs of Innocence. Cover engraving from the 1826 edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
  25. 25. 25 10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) William Blake • The world of innocence is full of joy and happiness, while the world of experience is full of cruelty and injustice. Cover engraving from the 1826 edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
  26. 26. 26 10. Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794) William Blake • The child becomes the object of Blake’s poetry because he is closer than the adult to the original state of harmony with nature. Cover engraving from the 1826 edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
  27. 27. Blake uses complex symbolism However, his language and syntax are simple. He often adopts an apparently naive style, using a plain, Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, as well as repetitions, refrains and regular stress patterns which are typical of ballads and children’s songs and hymns. To him a lamb or a tiger, a chimney sweeper or a London street were symbols of a supra-natural reality; they were never to be taken at their face value. Child  innocence Father  experience Christ  higher innocence 11. Blake’s style William Blake
  28. 28. Theme  The exploitation of children. Key images  The cry “weep”, darkness, the Angel. Devices  Symbols of innocence (lamb, happy, dance, sing). Contrast (black/white). Irony to criticize the institution. 12. The Chimney Sweeper William Blake William Blake, The Chimney Sweeper, in Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 1794.
  29. 29. Theme  the causes of man’s lack of freedom. Key images  “The mind-forg’d manacles”; three victims: the chimney-sweeper, the soldier and the prostitute. Devices: •Repetitions: “(in) every” and “mark(s)”; •Metaphors: “blackening” contrasts with “appals” (makes pale); •Hyperbole: “runs down in palace walls”. 13. London William Blake William Blake, London, in Songs of Experience, 1794.
  30. 30. Theme  Innocence and the Creation. Key-images  The Lamb, the child, Christ. Devices: •Repeated questions, directed to the Lamb. •Answers given in the second stanza. •Idyllic setting of “stream and mead”. •Image of God like both the “Good shepherd” and “The Lamb of God”. 14. The Lamb William Blake Only Connect ... New Directions William Blake, The Lamb, in Songs of Innocence, 1789.
  31. 31. Theme  God’s power in creation. Key images  The tiger as seen by Blake’s poetic imagination: “fearful symmetry”; “burning bright… fire of thine eyes”. 15. The Tyger William Blake William Blake, The Tyger, 1794, London, British Museum.
  32. 32. 15. The Tyger Devices: •Repeated (rhetorical) questions. •Hammering rhythm (like casting a spell). •Creator presented as a blacksmith. Reference to myth  Icarus and Prometheus. William Blake William Blake, The Tyger, 1794, London, British Museum.

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