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William Blake.

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1 William Blake

2 The Romantic Period (1785-1830)
 The Romantic Period was an era of turbulence.  Slave trade abolished in 1807  The American and French Revolutions  England took on harsh, repressive measures  The "Industrial Revolution"  Economic turmoil in England brought upon the "Two Nations": the rich and the poor.  Urbanization, neighborhood slums, harsh factory conditions  Industrialists and merchants flourished  Conceptions of proper femininity were altered. The new revolutionary ideologies paved the way for new opportunities.

3 Romanticism in Literature
 Principal canonical figures made up of six male authors:  Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Percy Shelley, Keats, and Blake  Romantic pieces were a reaction to the events that took place in that time period.  Shifted from faith in reason to faith in the sense, feelings, and imagination.  Shifted from public, impersonal poetry to subjective poetry.  Embraced rural living and nature.  Concerned with human rights, individualism, and freedom from oppression.

4 Timeline

5 Blake and others

6 Education Blake’s only formal education was in art
-age 10: entered a drawing school -studied for a time at the Royal Academy of Arts -age 14: entered seven-year apprenticeship to well-known engraver James Basire

7 Work in Art Gave drawing lessons Illustrated the works of other poets
Engraved designs made by other artists Had a patron, William Hayley, who tried to transform Blake into a more conventional artist (Blake said of Hayley: “[He] is the Enemy of my Spiritual Life while he pretends to be the Friend of my Corporeal”)

8 "While…busy with commissions he also undertook the task of creating the engravings that would illustrate his own poetry, and he also printed them himself. He experimented with an early method of creating images and text on the same plate…

9 …His highly detailed illustrations often focus on parts of the human anatomy or fantastically imaginative creatures surrounded by various natural forms. Often tackling difficult metaphorical themes, his characters embodying inspiration and creativity do battle with oppressive forces like law and religion" (Merriman, online-

10 Importance of Apocalypse
-"As an artist Blake admired and studied the works of Raphael, Heemskerk, Dürer, and Michelangelo, who would become important influences to the fantastic and at times apocalyptic illustrations he created for his own writings and others" (Merriman).

11 “Seeing the hand of God in the events [of the French Revolution] and understanding those events as the fulfillment of prophecies of the coming millennium came easily to figures such as…Coleridge, Wollstonecraft, and above all, Blake” (Norton Anthology) Traditions of radical Protestant Dissent Imminence of the Apocalypse and the coming of the Kingdom of God had long been central

12 “The new heaven and earth promised in the prophecies could…be gained by the individual who had achieved a new, spiritualized, and visionary way of seeing. An apocalypse of the imagination could liberate the individual from time, from what Blake called the “mind-forg’d manacles of imprisoning orthodoxies” (Norton Anthology)

13 Critical Reception "In 1808 he exhibited some of his watercolors at the Royal Academy, and in May of 1809 he exhibited his works at his brother James's house…

14 …Some of those who saw the exhibit praised Blake's artistry…

15 but others thought the paintings "hideous" and more than a few called him insane“ (

16 "To read a Blake poem without the pictures is to miss something important:
Blake places words and images in a relationship that is sometimes mutually enlightening and sometimes turbulent, and that relationship is an aspect of the poem's argument" (Norton Anthology, 77)

17 Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow

18 Late in His Career Dante’s Divine Comedy: Whirlwind of Lovers
-in his sixties, gave up poetry to devote himself to art -hundreds of engravings and illustrations for the works of other poets Book of Job Dante’s Divine Comedy: Whirlwind of Lovers

19 Not well-known in his time, it wasn’t until the mid-1920’s that Blake, as a painter and poet, was recognized as “one of the most dedicated, intellectually challenging, and astonishingly original artists” (Norton Anthology)

20 Songs of Innocence & Experience
The Lamb Questions of creation Lamb as metaphor for “Creator” = Jesus? Meekness, Gentleness, Peace Rhymed couplets Complimented by, “The Tyger” Innocent Holy Thursday 4th day after the resurrection of Christ Charity School St. Paul’s Cathedral For the thousands of orphans Together their voices are, “like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song”

21 Songs of Innocence & Experience
The Divine Image Virtues of Delight: Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace Reverse Metaphor of Man as the model for God God-like qualities that all humans strive for Complimented by “The Human Abstract” The Little Black Boy Equality in the “afterlife” Skin color will be the same in the after life (white) Though it strives to convey a strong point about religion, the underlying tones of racism are still present “And I am black, but O! my soul is white; White as an angel is the English child”

22 Songs of Innocence & Experience
The Nurse’s Song Innocence of youth Relation to nature The Tyger Questions creation How can both sides of beauty and horror be made by the same God? “What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” Compliments “The Lamb”

23 Songs of Innocence & Experience
Holy Thursday Contrasts the beauty described in the first song of the same name In this, the focus is on how children can be in such a miserable state Questions how can God let this happen “Is this a holy thing to see” The Human Abstract Questions the four virtues “Pity would be no more, If we did not make somebody Poor: And Mercy no more could be, If all were as happy as we;” The virtues can not exist with their counter parts

24 Songs of Innocence & Experience
London Observation of the “ugly” side of London Cries of chimney- sweepers being punished by the church Blood of soldiers spilled in order to protect the monarch Prostitutes poisoning the ears of infants with cursing and mocking marriage as if it was like dying The Sick Rose Infection of worm to the beauty of the rose Representation of how love is being tainted by thinking of sex as a shameful act

25 Themes/Motifs in Songs Of Innocence and Experience
Innocence / Loss of innocence Children God Religion Harsh reality of society/the world Poverty Charity

26 Innocence Innocence vs Experience Innocence poems:
-wistful and carefree -imaginative -colorful imagery Experience poems: -cruel and harsh -critical of society/religion -full of darkness and death “Infant Joy” vs “Infant Sorrow”

27 Children Represent innocence Innocence
Children are happy, carefree, and playful, even in tough situations Full of imagination and dreams Experience They are exploited and mistreated Sense of loneliness They also experience sorrow, fear, death, wrath, and the harsh realities of daily life Question God and religion

28 God and Religion Innocence:
God’s love is universal (“The Little Black Boy”) God as a creator of beauty and nature God as a father (“The Chimney Sweeper”) God as Mercy, Love & Pity (“The Divine Image”) The church as a charity (“Holy Thursday”)

29 God and Religion Experience: Nature is no longer beautiful
The church exploits the impoverished “…a heaven of our misery” God can create danger as well as beauty (“The Tyger”) Church’s repression of love/sexuality

30 Poverty/Suffering “It is a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land, Babes reduced to misery, Fed with cold and usurous hand?” (Holy Thursday, 90) “And mark in every face I meet / Marks of weakness, marks of woe” (London, 94)

31 Tyger

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