Monday, July 30, 2012


Blake was fond of mentioning Albrecht Durer along with Michelangelo and Raphael as artists whom he admired.
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 529)
"Colouring does not depend on where the Colours are put, but
on where the lights and darks are put, and all depends on Form or
Out-line.  On where that is put; where that is wrong, the Colouring
never can be right; and it is always wrong in Titian and
Correggio, Rubens and Rembrandt.  Till we get rid of Titian and
Correggio, Rubens and Rembrandt, We never shall equal Rafael and
Albert Durer, Michael Angelo, and Julio Romano."
Durer's Melencolia I 

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Blake thought so highly of Durer's engraving Melencolia I that he kept a print of it beside his workbench. Blake admired Durer's ability to use the defining line to delineate character in his designs. Blake's appreciation of Durer would not have been confined to his skill in producing engravings in which the lines were beautifully executed. That Durer produced symbolic pictures using a range of imagery which Blake incorporated in his poetry and graphic art, increased the value of Durer to Blake. 

Right click on picture and open in new window for detail.

Here is a quote from Jonathan Jones' 2002 article for the Guardian:
"The brightness of Dürer's sharp Renaissance drawing drags with it a melancholic medieval ghost. His eyes may be on the bright sights of Venice but his soul is in the northern woods. And it is in that realm of magic, the occult, apocalyptic fantasy and religious terror that Dürer finds images welling up into his brain. Melencolia is, for this artist, the condition of genius; it is what goes with thought and creativity. Only from long, lonely nights of febrile thinking - like Melencolia's - will anything new be created in the world. Out of his melancholy he brought forth miracles."

Annotations to Reynolds, page 71, (E 649)
" What does this mean "Would have been" one of the first
Painters of his Age" Albert Durer Is! Not would
have been! Besides. let them look at Gothic Figures & Gothic
Buildings, & not talk of Dark Ages or of Any Age! Ages are All
Equal.  But Genius is Always Above The Age"        
      "The Designer proposes to Engrave, in a correct and finished
Line manner of Engraving, similar to those original Copper Plates
of Albert Durer, Lucas, Hisben, Aldegrave and the old original
Engravers, who were great Masters in Painting and Designing,
whose method, alone, can delineate Character as it is in this
Picture, where all the Lineaments are distinct."       
Public Address, Page 62, (E 576)
     "I have heard many People say Give me the Ideas.  It is no
matter what Words you put them into & others say Give me the
Design it is no matter for the Execution.  These People know
Nothing Of Art.  Ideas cannot be Given
but in their minutely Appropriate Words nor Can a Design be made
without its minutely Appropriate Execution The unorganized
Blots & Blurs of Rubens & Titian are not Art nor can their Method
ever express Ideas or Imaginations any more than Popes
Metaphysical jargon of Rhyming Unappropriate Execution is the
Most nauseous affectation & foppery He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed Execution
is only the result of Invention"

Blake saw in Durer an artist of genius who was open to inspiration. His ideas were original and penetrating and his images delineated the form which lay below the surface of precise execution.

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