Friday, March 02, 2018


Blake's taste for the Gothic period and the Gothic style began early when he set himself to copying prints of early masters. When be became apprenticed to the engraver James Basire he had opportunities to develop his interest. Basire was engraver to the Society of Antiquaries specializing in architectural prints and illustrations. Basire assigned Blake of work in Westminster Abbey making drawings of the monuments in preparation for engravings for publications. In the hours Blake spent alone in the ancient church, he embraced the Gothic atmosphere and learned to appreciate the details which led to its powerful ambience of beauty and awe.
A unique experience for Blake was being present when the tomb of King Edward I who died in 1307 was opened. Although the embalmed body was intact when the casket was opened it quickly disintegrated when exposed to air. Blake recorded the scene for his master. 
Body of Edward I
Sketched in Westminster Abbey
Blake's apprenticeship was a period of training in his craft to which most of his time was devoted. But, likewise, his ever active mind and spirit were formulating attitudes to art and things of the spirit which would serve as a foundation to his life's work.

On Virgil, (E 270) 
  "Rome & Greece swept Art into their maw & destroyd it 
Warlike State never can produce Art. It will Rob & Plunder & 
accumulate into one place, & Translate & Copy & Buy & Sell & 
Criticise, but not Make.
  Mathematic Form is Eternal in the Reasoning Memory.  Living 
Form is Eternal Existence.
  Grecian is Mathematic Form
  Gothic is Living Form"

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 649)
"Reynolds: [Durer] would, probably, have been one of the first painters of his
age, (and he lived in all era of great artists,) had he been
initiated into those great principles. . . .
Blake:     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" 

Inscriptions, (E 671)
     "JOSEPH of Arimathea among The Rocks of Albion
     Engraved by W Blake 1773 from an old Italian Drawing 
     This is One of the Gothic Artists who Built the Cathedrals
in what we call the Dark Ages    Wandering about in sheep skins &
goat skins of  whom  the World was not worthy   such were the
Christians in all Ages
     Michael Angelo Pinxit 
 Engraved when I was a beginner at Basires from a drawing by
Salviati after Michael Angelo"

Public Address, (E 573) 
 "A Certain Portrait Painter said To me in a boasting way
Since I have Practised Painting I have lost all idea of Drawing. 
Such a Man must know that I lookd upon him with Contempt he did
not care for this any more than West did who hesitated &
equivocated with me upon the same subject at which time he
asserted that Wooletts Prints were superior to Basires
because they had more Labour & Care now this is contrary to the
truth. Woolett did not know how to put so much labour into a
head or a foot as Basire did he did not know
how to draw the Leaf of a tree all his study was clean strokes &
mossy tints. how then should he be able to make use of either
Labour or Care unless the Labour & Care of Imbecillity  The
Lifes Labour of Mental Weakness scarcely Equals one Hour of the
Labour of Ordinary Capacity like the full Gallop of the Gouty Man
to the ordinary walk of youth & health I allow that there is such
a thing as high finishd Ignorance as there may be a fool or a
Knave. in an Embroiderd Coat but I say that the Embroidery of the
Ignorant finisher is not like a Coat made by another but is an
Emanation from Ignorance itself & its finishing is like its
master The Lifes Labour of Five Hundred Idiots for he never does
the Work Himself"

Public Address, (E 575)
 "Woolett I know did not know how to Grind his Graver I know
this he has often proved his Ignorance before me at Basires by
laughing at Basires knife tools & ridiculing the Forms of
Basires other Gravers till Basire was quite dashd & out of
Conceit with what he himself knew but his Impudence had a
Contrary Effect on me. Englishmen have been so used to
Journeymens undecided bungling that they cannot bear the firmness
of a Masters Touch. Every Line is the Line of Beauty it is only
fumble & Bungle which cannot draw a Line this only is Ugliness.
That is not a Line which Doubts & Hesitates in the Midst of its
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 560)
 "Multitudes are seen ascending from the Green
fields of the blessed in which a Gothic Church is representative
of true Art Calld Gothic in All Ages"

This video presents the Boy Choristers of Canterbury Cathedral. The camera pans the Gothic architecture which enhances the exquisite music.

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