Friday, 28 November 2008

Blake's Unhappy Birth Day

William Blake was born on this day in 1757. Like Samuel Beckett, he seems to remember and rue the occasion...
Here's an anecdote about him by Samuel Palmer. Blake would frequently come down to Shoreham to visit 'The Ancients', his young devotees, passing the time there in walking, talking, writing, praying and Bible reading. His favourite reading was the parable of the prodigal son, but when he reached the words 'But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion...', Blake would invariably break down in tears, unable to go on. For some reason, this story lingers in my memory.


  1. Blakes 'God writing upon the Tables of the Covenant' resides in The Scottish National, a strange disturbing picture, vaguely nightmarish. It always leaves me with that feeling of having an itch somewhere and being unable or unwilling to scratch it.
    Nearby, coincidentally is one of Fuselis portraits of his missus, looking remarkably like Victoria Wood.
    Were he alive today would he have been Madonnas in house portraitist?

  2. I think Fuseli preferred the fuller figure, Malty - especially the derriere, to judge by his more pornographic works. Big behind and long in the neck - not a bad look actually...
    Blake's pictures often disturb me too - it's some combination of those bizarre colour combinations, scumbled surfaces and wonky draughsmanship - all v unsettling.

  3. Try as I might, I really can't warm to Blake's illustrations (and even, to some extent, his poetry). His portraits of the poets, Milton and Dryden, are in the gallery, just around the corner from where I now sit in Manchester. Sometimes at lunchtime I'll go in there and look at them. They give me a chill every time. They are muddy, like some blooded and stained shrouds, with just a hint of a likeness in there. It's like looking on a ghost.