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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Divine Images

The Life and Work of William Blake

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Divine Images

The Life and Work of William Blake

Although relatively obscure during his lifetime, William Blake has become one of the most popular English artists and writers, through poems such as “The Tyger” and “Jerusalem,” and images including The Ancient of Days. Less well-known is Blake’s radical religious and political temperament and that his visionary art was created to express a personal mythology that sought to recreate an entirely new approach to philosophy and art. This book examines both Blake’s visual and poetic work over his long career, from early engravings and poems to his final illustrations to Dante and the Book of Job. Divine Images further explores Blake’s immense popular appeal and influence after his death, offering an inspirational look at a pioneering figure.

352 pages | 90 color plates, 20 halftones | 7 1/4 x 9 3/4 | © 2021

Art: British Art

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"An insightful guide to the artistry of William Blake. . . . Focusing on how political and religious currents affected Blake’s art, Whittaker shows, in particular, how the idealistic hopes raised by the French Revolution among Blake and his contemporaries led him to imagine how his own society could be liberated from oppressive political structures and social strictures. . . . Whittaker also exhibits how Blake’s work as an engraver and printmaker illuminated his poetry. . . . Whittaker makes a strong case for why Blake remains 'one of the greatest poets and artists ever to have lived in the British Isles.'"

Publishers Weekly

"Whittaker cohesively maps the development of the form and content of Blake’s work within its evolving historical context. As such, it’s an accessible work for general readers and academics alike: affordable and beautifully bound. . ."

European Romantic Review

"Solid. . . . Whittaker’s aim is to render Blake’s complex message understandable to novices. It is a lucid effort. . . . Whittaker conveys the essential tenets of Blake’s thought sensibly, and he looks with assurance at his visual brilliance, putting Blake’s pictorial achievement in careful context, placing particular value on the artist’s later work, such as his illustrations of the Book of Job and Dante’s Divine Comedy. He also brings in contemporary critical views of Blake, such as his treatment of racism along with charges of misogyny in his depiction of females."

Arts Fuse

"William Blake was influenced by Shakespeare, Milton, and the Bible. Divine Images refamiliarizes the old and powerful stories, disentangles the themes of the prophetic books, and celebrates the ingenuity of the lyric poetry, while contextualizing all in the visual and political culture of Blake’s day. Whittaker’s beautifully written book puts Blake’s spirituality and humanism center stage. He explains what in Blake appealed to the Victorian and Modernist eras and still inspires contemporary artists, writers, and musicians."

Sibylle Erle, reader in English literature, Bishop Grosseteste University, author of "Blake, Lavater, and Physiognomy"

"No one can survive the impossible, irresistible Blake without an introduction. Whittaker’s is superior—readable, knowledgeable, comprehensive, up to date. Highly recommended for anyone trying to follow Blake’s golden thread."

Morris Eaves, professor of English and Richard L. Turner Professor of Humanities, University of Rochester, editor of "The Cambridge Companion to William Blake"

"Divine Images is the ideal guide for anyone wanting to know the life and works of William Blake—or to return to what they thought they knew. It is excellent both as an introduction to and overview of the historic Blake, exploring his poetry and art in their time and place and his inspiring legacy through the nineteenth century up to the present day."

Joseph Viscomi, James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of English Literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"In this readable and informative volume, Whittaker provides an excellent guide to the art and poetry of William Blake. Whittaker's sustained attention to Blake’s artistic works and methods is helpfully supported by 108 illustrations. Whittaker successfully makes Blake’s work, which is often thought of as challenging and idiosyncratic, understandable and relatable even as he highlights the poet's originality. Whittaker provides apt historical contexts that illuminate Blake’s life and works. Through these contexts, Whittaker also adroitly introduces readers to important critical conversations regarding Blake. Furthermore, Whittaker’s focus throughout on Blake’s religious and political radicalism helps structure the discussion of his life and works. Perhaps most helpful for those unfamiliar with Blake will be Whittaker's careful, clear tracing of the development of Blake’s personal mythological system, which can be daunting even to those familiar with Blake. The final chapter provides a helpful overview of Blake's legacy into the twenty-first century. This book is not only an excellent aid for those new to Blake but also an engaging reintroduction for those already acquainted with his poetry and art. . . . Recommended."


"[A] generously researched, written, and illustrated biography, a tribute to the brilliant artist and author. . ."

Mayéutica (Translated from Spanish)

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