William Blake Famous Paintings
The Ancient of Days
The Ancient of Days is a drawing by William Blake, first published as an illustration to the 1794 work Europe a Prophecy. The composition draws its name from one of God's titles in the Book of Daniel and displays Urizen bending in an orbicular form with a cloud-like framework. Urizen outstretched hand contains a compass over the mysterious void below. Similar representation appears in Blake's Newton, The Ancient of Days was "a singular favorite with Blake and as one it was always a happiness to him to copy."As such there are numerous versions of the work existing, including one developed for Frederick Tatham only weeks before Blake's death.
Pity is a composition inspired by Macbeth: ‘pity, like a naked newborn babe / Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim horsed / Upon the sightless couriers of the air’. William Blake draws on the popularly-held connection between a light complexion and ethical purity. These bonds are also made by Lavater, who composes that ‘the grey is the tenderest of horses, and, we may here add, that people with light hair, if not effeminate, are yet, it is well known, of tender formation and constitution’.
The Angel of Revelation
The Angel of Revelation comes from a series of eighty biblical watercolors that Blake made for Thomas Butts, an influential patron. He found the subject in chapter 10 of the book of Revelation and describes both the author and his vision. A diminutive Saint John, pen in hand, on the island of Patmos, gazes at a "mighty angel . . . clothed with a cloud . . . a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." Blake based the angel's water-spanning position on prints of the ancient Colossus of Rhodes and envisioned the seven thunders defined in the text as horsemen traveling within the clouds.
The Lovers Whirlwind
The Whirlwind of Lovers displays the scene in Canto V of the Inferno in which Dante meets the spirit of Francesca da Rimini, who performed infidelity with her brother in law, Paolo. Overcome with sadness at their story of thwarted love, Dante has fallen at the feet of his inferno guide, the Roman poet Virgil, as a whirlwind of other sinful lovers suffers nearby. Rather than solely illustrate the novel, Blake has reinterpreted it in both subtle and noticeable ways. In all the paintings Dante is clothed in red (symbol of the passions) and Virgil in blue (symbol of the imagination), corresponding to Blake's mythology that the imagination must guide our passions through the suffering of the earth. More obviously, Blake put the spirits of Francesca and Paolo within the brilliant, heavenly light over Virgil's head, rather than in the whirlwind with the other doomed souls: though technically wrongdoers, he provides them the mercy of their love.
Newton is perhaps Blake's most famous visual artwork, the mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton is illustrated drawing on a document on the ground with a wide compass. Newton remains on a rock encompassed by darkness, leaned over and completely absorbed by his own thoughts. For Blake, Newton was the living expression of rationality and scientific inquiry, a convention of intelligence which he viewed as reductive, sterile, and ultimately misleading. Isaac Newton is clearly a significant visual allegory, hence, the sharp edges and even lines used to signal out Newton's body indicating the restrictive spirit of reason, while the natural forms of the rock, obviously covered in algae and living plants, express the world of nature, where the spirit of human imagination finds its true glass. The deep, consuming black surrounding Newton, usually taken to represent the bottom of the sea or outer space, indicates his disregard of this world, his distance from the Spiritual light of truth. The compass is a representation of geometry and rational order.