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Painter - William Blake
A portrait of William Blake by fellow artist Thomas Phillips, created in 1807 when Blake was 50 years old.

Painter - William Blake

William Blake was born on the 28th of November 1757 in Soho, London. He was a spiritual child and had visions of God and of the prophet Ezekiel. This spirituality remained with him throughout his life.

His education in art began at the age of ten, and when he completed his apprenticeship as an engraver at the age of 21, he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Art's Schools of Design, where he began exhibiting his own works in 1780.

Having established himself as an engraver, Blake began to receive commissions for his watercolours and he painted scenes from the works of Milton, Dante, Shakespeare and the Bible.

In 1800 Blake moved to Felpham on the South Coast to work with the poet William Hayley. In 1803 Blake found a soldier on his property and removed him by force. The soldier had Blake charged with sedition, claiming that he had damned the king, but he was acquitted in 1804.

Blake moved back to London and exhibited more of his works. These were not well received with one critic saying that Blake was "an unfortunate lunatic". The artist was devastated by these reviews and his work rate slowed.

In 1819, Blake began sketching a series of "visionary heads," claiming that the historical figures that he drew actually appeared and sat for him. He remained busy until his death on the 12th of August 1827 at the age of 69.

Underappreciated during his life, Blake has since been recognised as one of the pioneers of the Romantic Age.

For a closer look at the pictures, please click on them to enlarge.
1.
The 1795 work The Night of Enitharmon's Joy has been interpreted as an image of which Greek goddess?
Hecate
Aphrodite
Hera
Athena
Hecate was the Greek goddess of witchcraft, often represented as having three forms, like the figure in this painting.
Enitharmon is a character of Blake's own creation, being the embodiment of spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration
2.
Nebuchadnezzar is a depiction of the biblical king during his period of insanity. How many versions of this work did Blake create?
2 versions
4 versions
6 versions
8 versions
Blake made four prints of the same image which were each painted differently with watercolour and ink. Of the four versions, one is in the Tate Britain in London, and two are in the USA - one in Boston and another in Minneapolis. Sadly, the fourth was lost in 1887
3.
The Night of Peace is part of a set of 6 paintings which illustrate which biblical story?
The birth of Moses
The birth of Samson
The birth of John the Baptist
The birth of Jesus
The series was intended to illustrate John Milton's poem On the Morning of Christ's Nativity. Two versions of the set exist, painted in watercolour. There are also four pencil drawings
4.
The Number of the Beast is 666 is part of a series of illustrations of the Book of Revelation. What is the name of this series?
The Devil Paintings
The Tribulation Paintings
The End of Days Paintings
The Great Red Dragon Paintings
There are four works in the series. In addition to the one shown there are also two versions of The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun and one of The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea. All four paintings are housed in American galleries
5.
The Temptation and Fall of Eve is a part of a set of illustrations to which book by John Milton?
L'Allegro
Paradise Regained
Il Penseroso
Paradise Lost
Three sets exist of Blake's illustrations of Paradise Lost and all of them are incomplete. The illustrations were originally commissioned by the Reverend Joseph Thomas sometime before 1807. A second version was made for Blake's friend Thomas Butts and a third for the painter John Linell. This third set has only three of the original 13 illustrations remaining
6.
Bearing a similarity to The Ancient of Days, this is a depiction of which scientist?
Archimedes
Isaac Newton
Socrates
Francis Bacon
Despite his appearance in this picture, Newton was despised by Blake who regarded him as one of the "infernal trinity" along with Francis Bacon and John Locke. Blake did not like science at all, and he wrote "Art is the Tree of Life. Science is the Tree of Death"
7.
Pity is an illustration of the lines:

"And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, hors'd
Upon the sightless couriers of the air."

From which Shakespeare play is this taken?
Hamlet
Romeo and Juliet
Macbeth
A Midsummer Night's Dream
There are four versions of this painting. The most well know (and the one pictured) is in the Tate Gallery, London
8.
First published as the frontispiece to Blake's 1794 book, Europe a Prophecy, this is considered by many to be the artist's greatest work. What is its title?
The Measurer of Time
God the Architect
The Ancient of Days
God the Mathematician
The painting is a depiction of 'Urizen', Blake's embodiment of reason and law, holding a pair of compasses over a dark void. It is also reminiscent of the biblical verse (Proverbs 8:27) "When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth"
9.
Cain Fleeing from the Wrath of God is taken from an 1809 catalogue of Blake's works which were being exhibited. How many of Blake's pictures were in the catalogue?
16 works
24 works
32 works
40 works
Only 12 of the original 16 pictures remain. In 2009 the Tate Britain exhibited several of the works in an attempt to recreate the original exhibition
10.
Completed sometime between 1824 and 1827 as a part of Blake's final series of watercolours, what is the title of this piece?
The Wood of Sorrows: The Sirens and the Saddened
The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies and the Suicides
The Forest of Fear: The Devils and the Frightened
The Forest of the Murderers: The Demons and the Damned
The painting is an illustration of a verse in Dante's Divine Comedy which describes the fate of those who take their own lives:
"Here the repellent harpies make their nests,
Who drove the Trojans from the Strophades
With dire announcements of the coming woe.
They have broad wings, a human neck and face,
Clawed feet and swollen, feathered bellies; they caw
Their lamentations in the eerie trees"

 

Author:  Graeme Haw

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