Born into a middle class family, #WilliamBlake (1757-1827) was poet, painter, and printmaker. Receiving little recognition during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a foundational figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. Blake’s artistic talent was recognised early and he was apprenticed to engraver James Basire for seven years. At the end of his apprenticeship, aged 21, he became a professional engraver. During his tenure with Basire he was employed to copy images and monuments from the Gothic churches in London and especially Westminster Abbey. Blake experienced ecstatic visions while working in the Abbey, he saw Christ and his Apostles and a great procession of monks and priests and heard their chant. Blake claimed that Ezekiel, Solomon, Merlin, his deceased brother, and many other historical and imaginary figures sat and conversed with him as he produced his illustrations of them.
The engravings are by #LuigiSchiavonetti from Blake’s drawings for ‘The Grave’. A poem penned by Robert Blair in 1743.
The powerful limbs and body of the young man heave in agony, fingers clench, toes curl, interminable excruciating torments of mind and body, depict the fearful image of the Strong and Wicked Man in the pangs of Death. His masculine soul is hurried through the window in flame to a land beyond. His daughter hides her face in grief while his wife frantically rushes forward, as if resolved to share or halt his fate.
While here are perfect repose, a strong hope, and heavenly rewards. Peace lies upon the old man’s visage, his hand upon the gospel, the bread and the wine having been received his soul devoutly ascends to eternal bliss. His affectionate children are seen in supplication, prayer and thanksgiving. No fear or desperation clouds their countenance. How great is the happiness of the Good Man in the Hour of Death.
Perhaps never were two subjects more happily conceived, and beautifully contrasted, than this and the former. Exquisite evidence of Blake’s capabilities as creative and visionary. William Blake genius, visionary, prophet, insane – all pieces of the whole – but what a whole.