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

Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind

Pen, ink and watercolour over pencil on paper, 393 x 330 mm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Blake stands alone in the history of British art; his paintings, prints and poetry evoke a private world of religious, mythic and philosophical themes of searing originality. He pursued some conventional training as an apprentice engraver, and briefly as a student at the Royal Academy Schools, but persisted throughout his life with his unorthodox vision. One of the few contemporaries who admired his work was the military clerk Thomas Butts, to whose son Blake gave engraving lessons, and for whom he created over eighty works between 1800 and c. 1809. They treated themes such as the Passion, Apocalyptic beasts and the Old Testament Book of Job, and this watercolour is one of the most splendid.

Blake re-visited the subject of Job on a number of occasions, possibly because he identified with Job's trials. Job steadfastly refused to abandon his faith in spite of the numerous misfortunes he had to endure, which included the death of his children and the destruction of his home. Here, at the climax of his torment, surrounded by his prostrated wife and friends, he experiences a mystic vision of God, who, with outstretched arms, is seen amid a vortex of angels. Light appears on the horizon, and Job will be granted redemption.