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William Blake in Paris – a real event

The Petit Palais Museum of Fine Arts in Paris in co-operation with the musée de la Vie Romantique presents for the first time an important retrospective of William Blake’s poetical and artistic work

This Parisian retrospective of William Blake gives us an opportunity to have a closer look into the enigmatic and mystic universe of this uncommon English artist of the end of the XVIIIth and the beginning of the XIXth century.

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Canal Academie had the privilege to make a private visit of the exhibition guided by Mrs. Catherine de Bourgoing, assistant director of the Musée de la Vie romantique in Paris who was also in charge of the very fine and richely documented catalogue of the exhibition.

Who is William Blake (1757-1827) ?
A painter – an engraver – a poet – a mystic ?

Blake’s apprenticeship and first vision – first poems

At the age of twelve, Blake began to write his first poems. At fifteen, he gets acquainted with the Antique mythology and the Middle-Age
1772-1780 Apprentice to the engraver James Basire. Blake spent three years drawing royal tombs in Westminter which initiated him with the taste for the « Gothic Art ». He is also an avid reader (the Bible, the Koran, Shakespeare, Milton…) and collects prints of the Renaissance.

Since his early days Blake writes poetry in the Elizabethan manner and experiments visions. He draws and prints them as well as historical or mysterious scenes. First known print : Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion after Michelangelo.
1779 Blake spent one year at the Royal Academy School learning anatomy and historical painting.

Blake as a copy engraver

After his apprenticeship ended Blake found work as an engraver, and he mostly earned his living as an engraver working for different publishers with a reputation as an efficient and exacting print-maker.

- 1782 Marriage with Catherine Boucher, illiterate daughter of a market gardener, a self taught artist and constant helper of Blake ;
- 1783 Meets Swiss born Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) with whom he shared the same attraction for Italian Renaissance and supernatural and fantastic subjects.
In the same year his poems Poetical Sketches are printed.
- 1788 Etches Head of a Damned Soul in Dante’s Inferno, after Fuseli, for Lavater’s essay on Physiognomy.
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