Romanticism

The Bible According to Blake

Magda Michalska 5 October 2016 min Read

William Blake, an English Romantic poet, painter and printmaker, was commissioned by his patron Thomas Butts, a civil servant, around 80 works with various biblical subjects. His own interpretations of the famous scenes from the Bible are penetrated with spirituality, magic and Blake’s personal experience. Just watch!

Jesus

William Blake, The Angels Hovering Over the Body of Christ in the Sepulchre, c. 1805
William Blake, The Angels Hovering Over the Body of Christ in the Sepulchre, c. 1805, Victoria&Albert Museum, London, UK.

When Blake was eight he told his mother he had seen a tree full of angels “bespangling every bough like stars”. This apparition took place on Peckham Rye, one of south-east London’s  green spaces. This illustration refers to the moment in New Testament before Jesus’ Resurrection. One can sense here some tension, suspended in the air. What is it? We don’t know equally as we don’t know what comes after death.

Satan

William Blake, Satan, 1789
William Blake, Satan, c. 1789, The Morgan Library and Museum, New York, NY, USA.

Blake, apprenticed to an engraver at the age of 14, is considered a master of this medium. This engraving was made after Henry Fuseli yet Blake added here his own interpretation – his Satan looks like a tortured man. He experimented with the oval-pointed echoppe needle, an 18th century French engraving method. You can notice it in Satan’s flesh which is made with tiny incisions enmeshed in the crosshatching.

Adam and Eve

William Blake, Sata Watching The Caresses of Adam and Eve, 1808, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
William Blake, Satan Watching The Caresses of Adam and Eve, 1808, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

Adam and Eve were the first people on Earth, with Eve created out of Adam’s rib. Here they’re showed as lovers surrounded by the beauties of flora of Eden. However, this idyll is being observed from the sky by an intruder, Satan, who’s depicted with his symbolic animal, the serpent. Is he already plotting how to tempt Eve?

Cain and Abel

Cain Fleeing Abel William Blake, 1826
William Blake, Cain Fleeing Abel, 1826.

Adam and Eve had two sons- Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer while Abel herded animals. When brothers made God sacrifices, God liked Abel’s offering much better. Envious Cain killed his brother in revenge. This painting depicts the moment when the parents find Abel’s body and Cain realizes how an awful crime he’s committed. The atmosphere of despair is reflected in the bloody-red sun and dark stormy clouds. They herald the new era for Cain and the entire humanity.

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