As a defender of imagination above rationalism, Blake opposed Isaac Newton’s scientific view of the universe, and felt that looking at the world through a scientific lens was reductive. He demonstrates his view in this portrait of the mathematician – the rock Newton sits on represents the beauty and variety of nature and imagination, but Newton has his back to it. His gaze is fixed downwards, focused on his compass and scroll, ignoring everything else the painting has to offer.
40 x 60 cm
Colourprint and watercolour
Date of work
Original: Colourprint and Watercolour 40 x 60 cm ® Tate, London
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 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.