Help me mock William Blake!
August 31, 2005 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find a snarky quote about the art of English poet and artist William Blake? Who said it, and what did he say?

More than once, I've read a quote that could be paraphrased as "I don't say he does not see angels; I only say he should take greater care in depicting them." Googling has proven fruitless, given the vagueness of my recollection. I have the impression that the speaker was another British poet, male, and roughly contemporary with Blake, but any of that could be wrong. Can you help me find the speaker's name and the quote?
posted by Elsa to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
This may be such a hard quote to find because Blake was a genius. Talk about someone who took care in what he depicted...and in more than one medium, too.
posted by bingo at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2005

I suspect the painter Joshua Reynolds, but I can't find a direct quote. Blake studied at the Royal Academy under Reynolds -- the problem was that Blake drew from his imagination, and felt that Reynolds just sort of slavishly copied nature. Likewise, Reynolds was critical of Blake's artwork (particularly his use of line). The exchange would go something like this --

Reynolds: Stop drawing from your imagination.
Blake: (facetious) What imagination? I drew these angels from observation.
Reynolds: In that case, you ought to observe them more carefully.

Reynolds is what my gut says, but there are a lot of possibilities. Also, while the sentiment was definitely there, that sort of quote seems a little cutesy and might have been invented to illustrate the relationship between Blake and mainstream art at the time. Blake had a handful of close friends and admirers while he was alive, but mostly he was Just Some Weirdo Who Didn't Draw Properly.
posted by Marit at 10:05 PM on August 31, 2005

Just noticed in your profile that you're a student of art history, so probably you know more about this than I! Sorry for prattling on -- perhaps Reynolds' name and/or the academy will be of help to someone who is clever with google.
posted by Marit at 10:18 PM on August 31, 2005

gingberg said he heard the voice of blake speaking to him while masturbating to songs of experience
posted by Satapher at 12:55 AM on September 1, 2005

Arthur Symons, one of Blake's early biographers, describes how he showed some of Blake's drawings (probably the so-called 'visionary heads' of angels, ghosts, etc) to the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and explained: 'He actually saw these figures; they are not mere inventions.' Rodin was unimpressed. 'Yes; he saw them once; he should have seen them three or four times.'

Is this the quotation you're looking for?
posted by verstegan at 4:49 AM on September 1, 2005

« Older Why do I hate beer?   |   Recommendations for discreet sheathed knives Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.