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William Blake: eyes a man of imagination

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The world of imagination is the world of eternity. It is a divine embrace that we will all go to after the death of the physical body. The world of imagination is infinite and eternal, while the physical world is only short and fleeting.

I know of no other Christianity, no other gospel, than the freedom for man to express through art his divine imagination — the imagination, the real and eternal world, of which this dilapidated universe is but a pale shadow, in which we will live in our eternal or imaginative bodies, when these mortals disappear.

(from the prophetic poem Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Great Albion, William Blake)

In a grain of sand you see a picture of the world,

Hold the whole universe in the palm of your hand,

To see the sky in the middle of a flower,

Embrace eternity in one moment

With these verses from the poetry collection Prediction of Innocence (Auguries of Innocence, 1801-1803), the English romantic William Blake in a completely unusual but complete way presents the goal not only of his own poetry but also of the entire creative imagination inspired by prophetic imagination and mysticism and interwoven with intense personal visions. , brings a specific experience of the world and the human soul as an entity in it. But such emotion does not come suddenly; on the contrary, it is almost expected, since the romantic wave not only in poetry and painting, but in almost all aspects of human existence and action, appears as a pronounced negation and open contempt directed towards all established conventions, and especially towards the tendencies of classicism his most important representative in England, Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744), in verses:

These rules, discovered long ago, not invented,

Nature is constant, but Nature is methodical.

Opposite the stated classicist-enlightenment teachings is the romantic revolution, therefore, in its essence, anti-classicist and anti-rationalist. Strongly opposed to established order, reason, simplicity and extreme purity in the use of form and expression, Romantic artists emphasize the further development of the view and sentimentality of the Swiss-French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, emphasizing nature and all its aspects, individualism and restlessness, passionate feelings. falling in love with the distant and undiscovered, politics and social engagement, and enthusiasm and interest in the supernatural, the unusual, often creepy and scary. Also, it is necessary to emphasize the love for folk creations and the so-called to the popular, ordinary man of everyday life, who is close to nature, childishly simple and uninformed.

However, despite the fact that English romantics do not form a homogeneous group, as can be seen in other European countries, but stand out as true individualists, some of whom have their own and often very different theories of not only poetry but art in general, it is an indisputable fact that they were all shaped by the same social reality and political events. The most significant were certainly the wars waged against Napoleon, which significantly weakened the country, however, the English still won in the end. Also, this period in history is impossible to observe without the awareness of the strong momentum of the industrial revolution and the spread of industrial capitalism, and in connection with them the increasingly difficult position and condition of the English working masses, but also the acceptance of the French Revolution on freedom, brotherhood and equality. a large part of the citizens and finally, as a result of all that, riots and demonstrations in Ireland and numerous protests and revolts of the working class in England. Many have reacted to such a social reality, and in art this reaction is manifested in several ways. Many, disappointed, overwhelmed by that worldly pain (Weltschmerz), will flee to some new reality, most often to nature and imaginary, outside cities and people that are almost suffocating, sometimes to distant, unexplored landscapes, and often to heavenly spaces that appear to man. as the only salvation. Contrary to them, the second group of individuals will boldly face this unfortunate reality and react with a strong rebellion which will, again, in the third, grow into a real revolutionary fervor of destroyers of existing institutions and systems accompanied by a clear political program and picture of the future, almost reborn human condition. a completely different and more beautiful social system in which each individual will find a place for himself.

Many histories of English literature take the date of the publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge's joint collection of Lyrical Ballads in 1798 as the beginning of the romantic movement in England. However, it is indisputable that the wave of romanticism in England appeared much earlier, so it is almost impossible to determine the exact date, but it is certainly certain that some poets before Wordsworth and Coleridge showed clear tendencies of romanticism in their works; among them the most important is William Blake, a completely unusual and versatile person who left a deep mark not only in literature but also in painting.

This great man of English poetry and painting comes from the family of a poor London craftsman, which is why his education suffered a lot - so self-taught, he chose his path and role models. He tried his hand at painting early on, for which he showed an exceptional gift, impressively absorbing various scenes around him, and he often saw objects around him that did not even exist. Such a ability, that is, a kind of vision, was interpreted by some critics as a tendency towards hallucinations, while others saw in it an exceptional and unrepeatable tendency towards the visual, and thus a special sensibility necessary for the fine arts. Namely, Blake started studying painting at the age of ten, and at the age of fourteen he became a student at a London engraving school, where he quickly distinguished himself as an exceptional talent. He will be engaged in engraving all his life, which will be his main source of income. In parallel, he created artistic images of incredible content and strong emotions, taking themes mostly from the Bible or Shakespeare's and Milton's literary works, which in themselves were constantly the subject of numerous controversies in artistic circles in London. He also wrote songs; the first only at the age of eleven, to take a critical attitude towards contemporary English poetry at the age of fourteen. Namely, in his first collection of Poetic Sketches (1783), he showed a clear and decisive deviation from the poetic models that were in vogue, and even then his incredible artistic imagination and a special experience of the world that definitely set him apart from of all the literary figures of that century. Blake's poetic talent served continuously for some thirty years in order to express himself most strongly, in addition to the above collection, in the next two - Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, both written between 1789 and 1794. Both collections undoubtedly illustrate Blake's deep, almost ecstatic and sensitive impressions from the outside world and his mystical understanding of the universe and man as an eternal fighter in search of truth. Such thoughts will culminate in later poems, and with their increasingly complex and obscure symbols in order to more faithfully represent Blake's personal spiritual experiences for the average reader, they will become almost completely incomprehensible; in that sense, it seems that in painting the author more consistently follows the path of the unusual, since his painting visions vary only in terms of representations of the mythological, religious, fantastic, and sometimes grotesque. He also felt great admiration for the achievements of the Middle Ages and came closer than any other romantic artist to the restoration of pre-Renaissance forms (it is interesting that he published books of his poems with engraved text and hand-painted illustrations, which many of his contemporaries saw as descendants of illuminated manuscripts. ). These elements are also found in his famous painting The Cause of Things - God (Figure 1), which is dominated by a muscular figure of the Mannerist style, which, radically shortened, is located in a circle of light almost in the center of the painting. This phenomenon of the circle, that is, a kind of point of universal beginning and end, was explained in the light of romanticism by the Belgian literary critic of the Geneva school Georges Pule (1902-1991) in his work Metamorphosis of the Circle: "Man, therefore, only repeats the process of divine and cosmic creation. In himself, from his concise version of his original condition, he contains in the germ of God and the world. To find man in that original point means to find, in condensed form, divine immensity and cosmic totality. As Paracelsus said, everything comes out of man and everything leads to man. According to Herder, he is: The central point of the circle, to which all rays seem to gravitate. " Also, the compass in the hands of the Lord originates from the medieval notions of God as the builder, that is, the architect of the Universe. Accordingly, it could be said that the artist has largely betrayed the expectations of the average observer, since the painting does not represent God as an almighty creator, but the figure personifies the power of reason which, according to Blake, has a destructive effect. He literally suffocates vision and inspiration and as such is the complete opposite of the so-called. an inner eye whose significance Blake only acknowledges. The complex phenomenon concerning his faith is most fully illustrated by probably the most intriguing, somewhat controversial topic, and according to some critics, the most ambitious poem The Everlasting Gospel (1818). Decades before the appearance of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he presented the Antichrist as Jesus, rejecting the divine, and insisting entirely on the human, since the only thing that matters now is that man, and especially the artist by his gift, is a kind of architect. the whole world:

You are a man. God is no more;

Learn to adore your humanity!

This kind of call is not unusual and testifies to a lot of romantic criticism, not only the achievements of rationalism, but first of all the new position of the artist, which is a kind of alter deus. Namely, now he has the main place in creation, from where a new and ever-expanding world of imagination is created; the subject becomes fully aware of his creative possibilities for the first time. The artist is definitely no longer a craftsman, but a Creator who unreservedly projects his will as a kind of center and focus of imagination, while all external entities are passive in relation to him. We can read about that world in the author's response to a priest regarding the attack on his art, as well as sharp criticism of how the artist is overshadowed by superstition: "I feel that a person can be happy in this world. And I know that this world is a world of Imagination and Vision. I see everything I paint in this world, but not everyone sees the same. Through the eyes of a fortress, guinea is far more beautiful than the Sun, and a bag worn out from carrying money has better proportions than a vine full of grapes. The tree, which entices some with tears of joy, in the eyes of others is just a green thing standing in the way. Some see nature as ridicule and deformity, and I will not determine my proportions by them; and some barely see nature. But through the eyes of the Man of Imagination, nature is Imagination itself. He sees what a man is like. As eyes are formed, so are their powers. You are certainly wrong when you say that visions of imagination are not in this world. To me, this whole world is a constant vision of imagination or imagination, and it flatters me when it is said.

What is especially important to point out is the fact that William Blake, both in this work and in some later ones, even identifies Christ with art, that is, an artist who broke all laws and as such a new Christ establishes a new world of tangible creative imagination that erases all boundaries. between reality and fantasy.

By this procedure, the borders between heaven and hell are erased, leaving man in a misty interspace in front of which both the spaces of Eden and numerous hellish scenes exist at the same time. Blake illustrated the proximity of paradise, and the path of man not only as an individual but as the soul of all humanity, with a recognizable biblical narrative from the Book of Genesis. Namely, according to the Old Testament, Jacob fell asleep on his way from Beersheba and on that occasion had an incredible dream. "The ladders leaned on the ground, and the top touched the sky, and behold, the angels of God climbed and descended on them; And, behold, there stood a LORD under them, saying, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. and to the east, to the north and to the south, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in you and in your offspring. ”5) gradually transforming into a bright yellow. Its intensity is additionally highlighted by the element in the upper part of the painting from where it radiates; namely, the connection with the Sun as a celestial body realizes the complex symbolism of the entire work. The sun as light, heat, around the world, that is, the lord of the firmament; its numerous meanings can be found in mythology, but also in folklore and folk culture. Everything that exists merges into it, that is, it is the end point in the movement of not only man but also angels, and all of them are presented in a completely interesting way. The whitish, almost airy figures calmly walk in light clothes resembling ancient tunics, thus clearly alluding that it is a dream of the sleeping Jacob in the lower part of the picture. The dreamy atmosphere is largely complemented by soft, almost pastel colors, gentle transitions and strokes of the brush, and the absence of any dynamics.

Finally, that calmness and composure is expressed in Blake's verses, where he, as an incredible humanist, precisely sees social problems and in this connection wants and demands justice for all, as well as a paradise, bliss and peace for all afflicted souls, even for the little chimney sweep from the song of the same name.

After hard work and numerous beatings, the two poor boys wish for those steps that lead to the gardens of paradise:

Then an angel came near the quiet boy

And with a shining key set them free;

And each ran down the green to

With a giggle to the river and the sun.

Bathed, white, without bags, all,

Naked boys sat on the cloud;

The angel said to Tom, "You don't have a father;

From now on, luckily you will be the father of God!

Blake's unusual talent and originality set him apart from the established artistic trends of the time, and he was often left alone, left to personal unrest in a constant struggle with himself. These inner demons will undoubtedly find a central place in his paintings, almost in constant conflict with religious and moralistic themes. This moment is especially impressive in the moments when William Blake was commissioned to illustrate certain biblical books between 1805 and 1810, when the famous cycle of four watercolors of The Great Red Dragon was created as an illustration of the monster from Revelation. Namely, each image follows a part of the biblical story of St. John with its narrative, more precisely three chapters in which beasts, ie dragons, appear.

Figure 3: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (1803-1805); Figure 4: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun
Figure 5: The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea; Figure 6: The Number of the Beast is 666

The first two watercolors (pictures 3 and 4) illustrate the chapter entitled Woman and Dragon: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, - the moon under her feet, - with a wreath of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and was crying, because she was in pain and in pain. And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the ground. (Revelation 12: 3-4) The next picture (picture 5) entitled The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea refers to the chapter The Beast Coming Out of the Sea and the Monster is described in thus: “Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on the horns ten crowns, and on their heads blasphemous names. The beast I saw was like a leopard, its legs like a bear, its jaws like the lions of a lion. The dragon gave her his power and his throne and great power. And I saw one of her heads as it were wounded to death: but her deadly wound was healed. And the whole earth marveled after the beast. And he worshiped the dragon, which gave power to the beast; and he worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? And who can fight it? And there was given unto her a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemies: and power was given unto her to continue forty and two months. And she opened her mouth, and blasphemed God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And she was allowed to make war with the saints, and to defeat them. And she was given authority over every tribe and people, language and tribe. And all the inhabitants of the land, whose names have not been written since the beginning of the world, and the book of the life of the lamb that would be slaughtered, will worship her. (Revelation 13: 2-9) Finally, the last in a series of watercolors about the Red Dragon, The Number of the Beast is 666 (The number of the Beast is 666), (Figure 6) presents a chapter called The Beast Rising from the Earth, which closes in a striking way the New Testament story of the beasts. precedes the heavenly struggle for supremacy over the world and the establishment of the New Heaven and the New Earth in the New Jerusalem: “Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth, having two horns like a lamb, and speaking like a dragon. She exercised all the power of the first beast before her; and he pretended that the earth and its inhabitants worshiped the first beast, which healed the mortal wound. She performed great miracles, even as fire descended from heaven to earth before men. She deceived the inhabitants of the land with signs, which she was given to do before the beasts, telling the inhabitants of the earth to make a sign of the beast that had a sword wound, but was alive. And it would be given to her to revive the image of the beast, to speak the image of the beast, and to make all those who do not worship the image of the beast kill. And he caused all, small and great, rich and poor, free and slaves, to be stamped on the right hand or forehead, and that no one could buy or sell except he who had the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of his name. There is wisdom. Whoever is reasonable, let him calculate the number of the beast, because that is the number of a man, and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Revelation 13: 11-18)

This cycle seems to represent the culmination of universal ideas and almost in the most complete way presents all those multiplicities, contradictions, but also the emotions and ideas of the English romantic William Blake. The dark scenes of visionary ecstasy as an expression of personal demons imbued with a pure, phantasmagoric representation of freedom and light, and a universal path that indisputably leads to bliss, represent the author's path to truth and self-knowledge. It is possible only in dynamics and movement, strong muscular figures of incredible creatures, and a soft and limited palette of colors, which deepens the overall idea.

But Blake's inspiration for biblical texts in a very specific way will not be approved by his contemporaries; the artist will die in poverty and is virtually unknown in 1827. His entire poetic and pictorial language is too different and too closed in his own fantasy, which is probably why he suffered and waited too long to be rediscovered and truly understood. However, it is an indisputable fact that Blake's completely different form of cognition as a kind of feature of his overall artistic poetics brings an unusual emotion and specific vitality whose strength keeps us from imaginary opinions and views of things, allowing us to enter, just like him into a higher reality and penetrate into the new forms and essences of existence. They are the embodiment of new visions; the divine embrace of the imagination as the only Eternal that remains to Man.


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Comments

A great artist, a poet, a very versatile man.

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11 months ago

He was active in many areas,he was lyrics,writing poems,and many more things.He was very interesting man.

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11 months ago

We have studied about Blake at Faculty, his poem Tiger, Tiger burning bright... we had to learn by heart. William Blake is an important poet in English literature.

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11 months ago