William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) “was an artisan in the truest sense: his craftsmanship played a role in every creative aspect of his poetic and prose works. William Blake thought, wrote, prepared, designed, engraved, and printed all pieces his name would grace.”

An impressive collection of 174 of William Blake’s artwork – drawings, watercolours, tempera, etchings and engravings for his famous bookmaking and illustrations can be viewed on Tate Online. These include interesting biographical, historical or technical notes. I’m particularly interested in his printmaking so I’ve selected a few highlights below. (Navigation is a bit slow to get directly to a particular image.)

Image 21-” He developed a technique for integrating both text and image onto a single etching plate for printing. This reflects the intimate relationship he saw between image and text, each being a comment upon the other.”

Image 22-” Blake’s invention of a method of printing in relief from etched plates, first used in 1788, gave him control over the style, production and publishing of his own books. By 1794 he had begun applying coloured pigments to his printing plates and then, as a further development, printing some of the designs in his books as separate coloured images.”

Newton – 1795/circa 1805 Colour print finished in ink and watercolour on paper – from Tate Online

Image 27 (above) – “The complexity and quality of the colour-printed areas of the rock, and the high degree of hand-finishing applied to Newton’s flesh and hair, show the great technical proficiency he had acquired through his colour-printing experiments from the mid 1790s.”

Images 74 to 107 – Blake “experiments with a new medium; he had never engraved on wood before. Even at the age of sixty-four he wanted to make further explorations in his art.”

Image 152 – “Blake produced about a hundred drawings and watercolours to illustrate the Divine Comedy, and had intended to make engravings of these designs. However, at the time of his death, in 1827, he had completed only seven engravings. These were published later by John Linnell… This is one of the seven engravings.”

More on Blake’s Life as man, artisan, writer, thinker, and on his method of etching & engraving.

Lots of links on Blake’s writing at Wood s Lot, Nov.28th, 2004 – thanks for the Blake at the Tate link!

December 4, 2004 in Other artists, Printmaking by Marja-Leena