This painting shows Blake’s character Urizen, who represented conventional reason and law, separating light and dark with a pair of dividers. It was used as the frontispiece to his 1794 poetic work, Europe a Prophecy
, which gives a mythological explanation to the problems Europe was experiencing in Blake’s lifetime.
Europe’ Plate I: Frontispiece, ‘The Ancient of Days’
Date of work
Original: Relief etching with ink and watercolour on paper 23.2 x 17 cm The Whitworth, The University of Manchester
William Blake (1757 – 1827) was an English poet and artist. Blake trained as an engraver and had a career in etching, engraving and illustration. Although he exhibited his watercolours at the Royal Academy, from 1780 he railed against academic art, insisting instead on individual inspiration. His own style was influenced by Gothic sculpture and Michelangelo’s figures. Although he received little public recognition in his lifetime, he has since been hailed as one of Britain’s greatest artists, and celebrated for his anti-slavery and pro-equality views.