Monday, February 25, 2008

William Blake: Fine Artist or Illustrator?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Above is an example of William Blake's illustration if his popular poem "The Tyger". It is through his poetry that I first discovered the talented British poet and artist. It was to my delight to discover that the poet that I so admired was also a wonderful artist. Blake illustrated his poems beautifully with engravings, watercolors, etc. However, Blake was more than just an illustrator. He also created beautiful and expressive works that stand alone. For example, "Ancient of Days" at right, is a strong work in its own right. Blake was an illustrator, but he was also a fine artist. He created masterful paintings, engravings, drawings, watercolors, that are just as brilliant as any other popular artist of the time, and actually I feel that Blake's style is quite edgy and ahead of his time. "Ancient of Days" reminds me of a popular trend in today's graphic design. This piece reminds me of something found in liner art for cd's or on a graphic tee. It is hard and to the point, expressive, and provokative. This piece is undoubtably a fine art piece. "The Tyger" pictured above is clearly an illustration. I don't really understand why we feel as though we must put labels on everything, though. Can an illustration not be fine art as well? I think it can be. I realize that we need these specified labels to describe certain works, but I feel that most art can be called fine art.

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