William Blake

Overview

This module centres on a sustained critical examination of the practice, reception and long-term resonance of the painter, poet and printmaker William Blake.

Seminars will examine the extraordinary visual power of Blake’s enterprise from various perspectives, and in relation to themes such as the revolutionary and national politics of the 1790s and early 1800s; religion and spirituality; media and printmaking technologies; contemporary artistic theory and practice (within and without the Royal Academy); exhibition culture; and word and image.

Although one of the most admired and intensively studied of all British artists, Blake remains one of the most elusive. As well as placing the artist’s work in its own time, the module will also examine Blake’s singular prominence within the modern historiography of British art, including the role of the Tate Gallery and other institutions in shaping his posthumous identity.

Aims

By the end of the module, students should have acquired:

  • a good understanding of the artistic practice of William Blake
  • specific knowledge of the art-historical and critical debates surrounding Blake’s work
  • understanding and appreciation of the materials and techniques used by the artist
  • broad knowledge of the history of art in Britain during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century
  • an appreciation of the historiographical and curatorial legacy of Blake—at Tate and beyond
  • advanced skills in visual and literary analysis
  • high-level reading skills, to critically evaluate and engage with a range of scholarly approaches
  • an ability to develop a sophisticated written argument, using images effectively
  • persuasive presentation skills and the ability to explain complex ideas to an informed audience

Preliminary Reading

  • David Blayney Brown and Martin Myrone, ‘William Blake’s 1809 Exhibition’, Tate Papers 14 (Autumn 2010)
  • Morris Eaves, The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake (Cornell Univ. Press, 1992)
  • Jon Mee, Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s (Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • Morris Eaves, ed., The Cambridge Companion to William Blake (Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  • Martin Myrone, The Blake Book (Tate, 2007)

Ancient of Days, William Blake (1794) British Museum, London

Module information

  • Module title
    William Blake
  • Module number
    HOA00084M
  • Convenor
    Martin Myrone

For postgraduates