“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.
Photographer Dorothea Lange’s California, Then and Now
“It was really powerful to be on the road following her footsteps. It just gave me an incredibly profound respect for her grit.”
In the 1930s and ‘40s, photographer Dorothea Lange drove up and down California and across the American West, recording people and their living conditions with her camera and notepad. Eighty years later, poet Tess Taylor saw echoes of Lange’s photographs of temporary housing, migrant labor, and precarious livelihoods in contemporary California. Taylor retraced Lange’s steps, following itineraries from her notebooks. Taylor’s book-length poem Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange explores Lange’s legacy in California, combining her notes and photographs with Taylor’s lyric poetry and oral histories. The result is a poignant exploration of the social and environmental challenges facing California today.
In this episode, Tess Taylor and Getty photographs curator Mazie Harris discuss Dorothea Lange’s career, iconic images, and continuing impact. Taylor also reads excerpts from Last West.