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“For Blake, visionary art is not mysterious or fuzzy or soft. Visionary art is something which actually very precise and crisp.”

Painter, poet, draftsman, and printmaker William Blake was born in London in 1757, a time when England’s art scene was growing and transforming dramatically. Blake trained as an engraver, eventually developing his own technique that allowed him to combine word and image in colorful works. Blake used this approach to illustrate poems he composed and began to publish limited editions of books on his own, without the assistance of publishing houses. While Blake enjoyed a small number of followers and patrons during his lifetime, he also had a reputation as an eccentric who experienced visions and was not always easy to understand or get along with. His early biographers, some of whom knew him personally, emphasized this aspect of Blake’s personality, creating a narrative of Blake as a mystic and dreamer that persists to this day.

In this episode, British art historian Martin Myrone, Convenor of the British Art Network at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and former senior curator of Pre-1800 British art at Tate Britain, discusses Blake’s work and reputation during and after his lifetime. Myrone wrote the introduction to Lives of William Blake, a book of early accounts of Blake’s life from Getty Publications.

Book cover for Lives of William Blake featuring self-portrait of Blake

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Lives of William Blake buy the book

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
MARTIN MYRONE: For Blake, visionary art is not mysterious or fuzzy or soft. Visionary art is somet...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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