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ideas or imaginations any more than Pope's metaphysical jargon (?) of rhyming. (later) Unappropriate execution is the most nauseous of all affectation and foppery.
Whoever looks at any of the great and expensive works of engraving which have been published by English traders must feel a loathing and disgust; and, accordingly, most Englishmen have a contempt for art, which is the greatest curse which can fall upon a nation.
The Modern Chalcographic connoisseurs and amateurs admire only the work of the journeyman, picking out whites and blacks in what is called tints. They despise drawing, which despises them in return. They see only whether everything is carved down but one spot of light.
Mr. B. submits to a more severe tribunal. He invites the admirers of old English portraits to look at his print.
(Below,- of another date,—this note intended to hit Rembrandt, --not belonging to this part of the essay.) He who could represent Christ uniformly like a drayman must have had queer conceptions : consequently his execution must have been queer, and those must be queer fellows who give great sums for such nonsense and think it fine art.
(Upside down,-at foot of page 64.)
Great men and fools do often we inspire,
I do not know whether Homer is a liar, and that there is no such thing as generous contention. I know that all those with whom I have contended in art have striven, not to excel, but to starve me out by calumny and the arts of trading competition.
(Title and verses. “Having given great offence by writing prose," etc.)
The English artist may be assured that he is doing an injury and injustice to his country while he studies and imitates the effects of Nature. England will never rival Italy while we servilely copy what the wise Italians, Raphael and Michael Angelo scorned, as Vasari tells us.
Call that the public voice which is their error
What kind of intellect must he have who sees only the colours of things and not the forms of things?
Let us teach Buona parte and whomsoever it may concern that it is not the arts that follow and attend upon Empire, but Empire that attends upon and follows arts.
It is nonsense for noblemen and gentlemen to offer premiums for the encouragement of art when such pictures as these can be done without premiums. Let them encourage what exists already, and not endeavour to counteract by tricks.
Let it no more be said that empires encourage arts, for it is arts that encourage arts, Arts and artists are spiritual and laugh
at mortal contingencies. This is their power, to hinder instruction, but not to instruct, just as it is in their power to murder a man but not make a man.
No man of sense can think that an imitation of an oleograph is the art of painting, or that such imitation, which any one can easily perform, is worthy of notice, much less that such an act should be the glory and pride of a nation. The Italians laugh at the English connoisseurs, who are most of them such silly
fellows as to believe this. Sideways. A man sets himself down with colours, and with all the
articles of painting. He puts a model before him, and he copies
Pp. 69, 70, 71, etc., of the notebook contain chiefly the account of the picture called the “ Last Judgment," with the title, “ For the year 1810, Addition to Blake's catalogue of pictures.” On two little clear spaces of p. 72 are found, written sideways, the following
two fragments: 72 A jockey that is anything of a jockey will never buy a horse
by the colour, and a man who has got any brains will never buy a picture by the colour.
When I tell any truth it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those
who do. 77 The greater part of what are called in England “old pictures"
are oil-colour copies of frescoe originals. The comparison is easily made and the copy detected. (Note.--I mean frescoe,
easel, or cabinet pictures on canvas or wood, copper, etc.) [The remainder of the book is filled with the description of the Last Judgment picture, which seems to have been begun upon p. 69 before any of this was written. Whatever space it did not require was given to verses. Therefore we must turn back to the beginning of the book to find the rest of this Public Address.)
If men of weak capacities have alone the power of execution in art, Mr. Blake has now put to the test. If to invent and to draw well hinders the executive power in art, and his strokes are to be condemned because they are unlike those of artists who are unacquainted with drawing, is now to be decided by the public. Mr. Blake's inventive powers and his scientific knowledge of drawing are on all hands acknowledged. It only remains to be certified whether Physiognomic strength and power are to give place to imbecility. In a work of art it is not fine tints that are required but fine forms. *1 Fine tints without fine forms are always the subterfuge of the blockhead.*
I account it a public duty respectfully to address myself to the Chalcographic Society, and to express to them my opinion, the
result of expert practice and experience of many years, that engraving, as an art, is lost to England, owing to an artfully propagated opinion that drawing spoils an engraver. I request the society to inspect my print, of which drawing is the foundation, and, indeed, the superstructure. It is drawing on copper, as painting ought to be drawing on canvas, or any other surface, and nothing else. I request likewise that the society will compare the prints of Bartolozzi, Woollett, Strange, etc., with the old English portraits :—that is, compare the modern art with the art as it existed previous to the entrance of Vandyke and Rubens into the country—since which event engraving is lost-and I am sure the result of the comparison will be that the society must be of my opinion, that engraving, by losing drawing, has lost all character and expression, without which the art is lost.
(No. 19 is the next page which had blank space enough left in 1810 for the manifesto. It continues on that page,-as follows) :
There is not, because there cannot be any difference between the effect in pictures by Rubens and Rembrandt. When you have seen one of their pictures you have seen all. It is not so with Raphael, Julio Romano, Albert Dürer, Michael Angelo. Every picture of theirs has a different and appropriate effect. What man of sense will lay out his money on the life's labour of imbecility and imbecility's journeyman, or think to educate a fool how to build a universe with farthing balls? The contemptible idiots who have been called great men of late years ought to rouse the public indignation of men of sense of all professions.
That vulgar epigram in art, Rembrandt's Hundred Guelders, has entirely put an end to all genuine and appropriate effect. All, both morning and night, is now a dark cavern. It is the fashion. Yet I do not shrink from comparison in either relief or strength of colour with Rembrandt or Rubens ; on the contrary, I court the comparison and fear not the result. Their effects are in every picture the same. Mine are in every picture different. Raphael, Michael Angelo, Albert Dürer, Julio Romano, are accounted ignorant of that epigrammatic. wit in art, because they avoid it as a destructive machine, as it is.
I hope my countrymen will excuse me if I tell them a wholesome truth. Most Englishmen when they look at a picture begin immediately searching about for points of light, and clap the picture in a dark corner. This, when done by grand works, is like looking for epigrams in Homer.
A point of light is a witticism. Many are destructive of all art. One is an epigram only, and no good work can have them.
Mr. B. repeats here that there is not one character or expression in this print which could be produced with the execution of Titian, Rubens, Correggio, Rembrandt, or any of that class. Character and expression can only be expressed by those who feel them. Even Hogarth's execution cannot be copied or improved. Gentlemen of fortune who give great prices for pictures should consider the following:
Rubens' Luxembourg gallery is confessed on all hands to be the
work of a blockhead. It bears this evidence in its face. How can its execution be any other than the work of a blockhead ? Bloated gods,-Mercury, Juno, Venus, and the rattletraps of mythology, and the lumber of an awkward French palace are thrown together, around clumsy and rickety princes and princesses, higgledy-piggledy. On the contrary, Julio Romano's Palace of T. at Mantua is allowed on all hands to be the production of a man of the most profound sense and genius, and yet his execution is pronounced by English connoisseurs, and Reynolds, their doll, to be unfit for the study of the painter. Can I speak with too great contempt of such fellows? If all the princes in Europe like Louis XIV. and Charles I. were to patronise such blockheads, I, William Blake, a mental prince, would decollate and hang their souls as guilty of mental high treason.
Who that has eyes cannot see that Rubens and Correggio must have been very weak and vulgar fellows? And are we to imitate their execution! This is what Sir Francis Bacon says, that a healthy child should be taught and compelled to walk like a cripple, while the cripple must be taught to walk like healthy people. Oh rare wisdom !
The wretched state of the arts in this country, originating in the wretched state of political science (which is the science of sciences), demands a firm and determinate conduct on the part of artists to resist the contemptible counter arts, established by such contemptible politicians as Louis XIV., and originally set on foot by Venetian picture-traders, music-traders, and rhymetraders, to the destruction of all true art as it is this day. An example of these contrary arts is given us in the characters of Milton and Dryden as they are given in a poem signed with the name of Nat Lee, which perhaps he never wrote, and perhaps he wrote in a paroxysm of insanity, in which it said that Milton's poem is a rough, unfinished piece, and that Dryden has finished it. Now let Dryden's Fall and Milton's Paradise be read, and I will assert that everybody of understanding must cry out shame on such niggling and poco-pen as Dryden has degraded Milton with. But at the same time I will allow that stupidity will prefer Dryden, because it is rhyme, and monotonous sing-song, sing-song from beginning to end. Such are Bartolozzi, Woollett, and Strange. To recover art has been the business of my life, io the Florentine original, and if possible to go beyond that original. This I thought the only pursuit worthy of a man. To imitate I abhor. I obstinately adhere to the true style of art such as Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Albert Dürer left it,--*the art of invention, not of imitation. Imagination is my World. This world of dross is beneath my notice, and beneath the notice of the Public. **1 I demand, therefore, of the amateurs of art the encouragement which is my due. If they continue to refuse, theirs is the loss, not mine, and theirs is the contempt of posterity. I have enough in the approbation of
1 * to ** erased. The words are valuable as showing the consistency of the author, who looked on the Public as being, like himself, truly a portion of the spiritual world, and outside the "world of dross."
fellow-labourers. This is my glory, and my exceeding great reward. I go on, and nothing can hinder my course.
And in melodious accents I
Will sit me down and cry,-1! I ! 23 (The Screwmuch lines fill page 23 ; they were written before this
“ Address,” as was also the fragment "was I angry with Hayley, who used me so ill, etc.," which holds the central place under a sketch in
page 24.) 24 The painters of England are unemployed in public works
while the sculptors have continual and superabundant employ. ment. Our churches and our abbeys are treasures of their producing for ages back, while painting is excluded. Painting, the principal art, has almost no place among our only public works. Yet it is more adapted to solemn ornament than marble can be, as it is capable of being placed in any height, and, indeed, would make a noble finish placed above the great public monuments in Westminster, St. Paul's, and other cathedrals. To the Society for the Encouragement of Art I address myself with respectful duty, requesting their consideration of my plan as a great public means of advancing fine art in Protestant communities. Monuments to the dead painters by historical and poetical artists like Barry and Mortimer (I forbear to name living artists, though equally worthy), I say, monuments to painters must make England what Italy is; an envied store
house of intellectual riches. 25 It has been said of late years the English public have no taste
for painting. This is a falsehood. The English are as good judges of painting as of poetry, and they prove it by their contempt for great collections of all the rubbish of the Continent brought here by ignorant picture-dealers. An Englishman may well say, “I am no judge of painting” when he is shown these smears and daubs at an immense price, and told that such is the art of painting. I say the English public are true encouragers of real art, while they discourage and look with contempt on false art. I know my execution is not like any one else's. I do not intend it should be so. None but blockheads copy one another. My conception and invention are allowed on all hands to be superior. My execution will be found so too. To what is it that gentlemen of the first rank both in genius and fortune have subscribed their names? To my inventions. The executive part they never disputed.
In a commercial nation impostors are abroad in all professions. These are the greatest enemies of Genius. *Mr. B. considers it his duty to caution the public against a certain impostor who ** In one art, the art of painting, these impostors sedulously propagate an opinion that great inventors cannot execute. This opinion is as destructive of the true artist as it is false by all experience. Even Hogarth cannot be either copied or improved. Can (?) Anglus ever discern perfection but in the
journeyman's labour ? Sideways. P.S. I do not believe that this absurd opinion was set on
foot till, in my outset into life, it was artfully published both in whispers and in print by certain persons whose robbery from me