The romantic symbolist art of William Blake

written by Ana on November 28, 2011 in Europeana Art and Feature story and News with 6 comments

“The Imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself”

Bildnis William Blake (1757 - 1827)

The British poet, painter and printmaker William Blake is considered by many as one of the greatest British artists ever. He was born on 28 November 1757 in London, during a period that neglected both him and his art. It was only years after his death that his work became appreciated and got the recognition it deserved.

“Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence” 

William Blake left school at an early age and most of his education was from his parents at home. At the age of 21, Blake was accepted by the prestigious Royal Academy in London, but he later criticised the way art was taught at that time. His greatest influences were the liberal ideals of the French and American Revolution and also the Bible, although he was not a religious person.

In his work Blake used complex symbolism and allegory. Here are some examples of his drawings for the book of Job, a series of 22 illustrations of the biblical book, considered by many art critics to be Blake’s greatest masterpiece.

Illustrations to the Book of Job: And only I am escaped alone to tell theeIllustrations to the Book of Job: When the almighty was yet with me



William Blake was ahead of his time. For his entire life he suffered for being misinterpreted and misunderstood. It was only in the 20th century that his work gained full dimension influencing the beat poets generation and the counterculture artists of the 1960s.

You can read all of William Blake’s poems here on Europeana provided by Casa Fernando Pessoa.