BLAKE, William
(b. 1757, London, d. 1827, London)

Los

1804-20
Etching with pen, watercolour and gold, 146 x 222 mm
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven

This is Plate 100 of the illustrated poem Jerusalem.

Trained as an engraver, Blake evolved into a shamanic figure - mystic, philosopher, priest - compelled to set his visions before the world. They took the form of epic, quasi-biblical dramas of spiritual redemption. He increasingly eschewed conventional media and published them in 'Prophetic Books' written and illuminated himself by processes of colour printing. In his Prophetic Books, the character of Los exemplifies the artist's roles as seer, mystic and interpreter. The author of all art and literature, architect of a City of Art, Los is responsible for everything mankind sees and senses. In Jerusalem he takes various forms, from a London nightwatchman to a blacksmith at his forge, but he is also Blake himself. When the narrative reaches its last page, Los rests from his smithy, but a temple of false religion is already extending to cover the land behind him as night follows day.