Sunday, December 02, 2007

As It Is

Wednesday (11/28) was "the 250th birthday of William Blake, born in London (1757), who was 4 years old when he saw God's head appear in a window, later saw the prophet Ezekiel sitting in a field, and once came upon a tree full of angels. He tried to tell his parents about these visions, but his father threatened to beat him for lying, so he stopped mentioning it.

"Instead, he began drawing pictures, and his work was so promising that his parents sent him to art school to become an engraver. He learned how to engrave copper plates for printing illustrations in books, and he went on to produce the illustrations for books about architecture, botany, and medicine. His work was so good that he was commissioned to come up with his own illustrations for the work of Chaucer, Dante, and selections from the Bible, which are now considered among the greatest works of engraving ever produced. He even invented a method of printing illustrations in color, and art historians still aren't sure how he did it.

"But as he became more famous for his artwork, Blake also began telling the artists and publishers he worked with that he was regularly visited by angels, and that he had conversations with him. He told a friend that he had discussed Renaissance art with the archangel Gabriel, and Gabriel preferred the paintings of Michelangelo to those of Raphael. Blake's work as an illustrator grew more and more bizarre, until finally he could only make a living by selling watercolors to a small group of private collectors.

"Blake had also been writing poetry for much of his life, and since he had his own printing press, he decided to print it himself. He developed a process of writing his poems directly on copper plates and then engraving illustrations around them. He would print a few dozen copies and stitch them into pamphlets, which he sold himself. His books got no attention in his lifetime. Most critics dismissed him as a madman. He died in 1827, and it wasn't until 1863 that a biography about him persuaded people to read his poetry for the first time."

--The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor


If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

--William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell