Blake’s title page from Songs of Innocence (Image 8-21 in Meggs, p.128) is a beautiful example of Blake’s creative spirit. This was the first time artists/printers moved beyond the illustrated first initial to illustrating whole words. During his life he fought against rationalism and the ideas of the Renaissance that were popular and began a “pre-romanticism” period that was more concerned with aesthetic value. He argued for movement back to more spiritual/religious thinking, but not so far back that it squashed creativity and imagination. His work provides very early examples of expressionism and surrealism, yet he upholds many of the elements of a classical artist.
In his illustrations for the Book of Job and Dante’s Inferno the subjects all have the classically Greek physique, but everything else is expressionistic. The values and design are not realistic, but something that he has created to reflect what the text means to him. His work was definitely different for the era and it’s not surprising that many of his contemporaries thought he was slightly insane. His work is different than anything that had been done before, but no less artistic.