X hits on this document

164 views

0 shares

0 downloads

0 comments

53 / 70

The one caught the trick of the time with his facile elegance; the

other scorned to make any concessions, either in conception or

execution, to the mere popularity of prettiness.

"Give pensions to the learned pig,

Or the hare playing on a tabor;

Anglus can never see perfection

But in the journeyman's labour," -

he wrote in one of those rough-hewn and bitter epigrams of his.  Yet

the work that was then so lukewarmly received--if, indeed, it can be

said to have been received at all--is at present far more sought

after than Stothard's, and the prices now given for the "Songs of

Innocence and Experience," the "Inventions to the Book of Job," and

even "The Grave," would have brought affluence to the struggling

artist, who (as Cromek taunted him) was frequently "reduced so low

as to be obliged to live on half a guinea a week."  Not that this

was entirely the fault of his contemporaries.  Blake was a

visionary, and an untuneable man; and, like others who work for the

select public of all ages, he could not always escape the

consequence that the select public of his own, however willing, were

scarcely numerous enough to support him.  His most individual works

are the "Songs of Innocence," 1789, and the "Songs of Experience,"

1794.  These, afterwards united in one volume, were unique in their

method of production; indeed, they do not perhaps strictly come

within the category of what is generally understood to be

copperplate engraving.  The drawings were outlined and the songs

written upon the metal with some liquid that resisted the action of

acid, and the remainder of the surface of the plate was eaten away

with aqua-fortis, leaving the design in bold relief, like a rude

stereotype.  This was then printed off in the predominant tone--

blue, brown, or yellow, as the case might be--and delicately tinted

by the artist in a prismatic and ethereal fashion peculiarly his

own.  Stitched and bound in boards by Mrs. Blake, a certain number

of these leaflets--twenty-seven in the case of the first issue--made

up a tiny octavo of a wholly exceptional kind.  Words indeed fail to

exactly describe the flower-like beauty--the fascination of these

"fairy missals," in which, it has been finely said, "the thrilling

music of the verse, and the gentle bedazzlement of the lines and

colours so intermingle, that the mind hangs in a pleasant

uncertainty as to whether it is a picture that is singing, or a song

which has newly budded and blossomed into colour and form."  The

accompanying woodcut, after one of the illustrations to the "Songs

of Innocence," gives some indication of the general composition, but

it can convey no hint of the gorgeous purple, and crimson, and

orange of the original.

Of the "Illustrations to the Book of Job," 1826, there are excellent

reduced facsimiles by the recently-discovered photo-intaglio

process, in the new edition of Gilchrist's "Life."  The originals

were engraved by Blake himself in his strong decisive fashion, and

Document info
Document views164
Page views164
Page last viewedTue Dec 06 13:16:26 UTC 2016
Pages70
Paragraphs3419
Words36705

Comments