Visions of Blake

BookVisions of Blake

Visions of Blake

William Blake in the Art World 1830-1930

Value: Art: Politics, 3


February 23rd, 2012





How did William Blake achieve classic status? What aspects of his art and personality attracted and repelled critics? How was the story of his afterlife coloured by debates and developments in the British art world? Moving between visual and literary analysis, Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World 1830-1930 considers the ways in which different audiences and communities dealt with the issue of describing and evaluating Blake’s images and designs. It ranges widely from the writings of Gilchrist, the Rossetti brothers, Ruskin, Swinburne, Symons, Yeats, Joyce, Chesterton and Fry, through to works by Ford Madox Brown, G. F. Watts, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Walter Crane, C. R. Ashbee, Aubrey Beardsley, E. J. Ellis and J. T. Nettleship. Each chapter of this groundbreaking study deals with its own topic, but between them they build up a multifaceted picture of how a wide range of Victorian and Edwardian commentators connected Blake’s interest in pictorial composition, visual attention and ideas of cultural authority with broader contemporary matters and concerns. Visions of Blake is intended for all students and academics interested in Blake, Romanticism, Victorian culture, cultural politics and modern art.

The first major consideration of Blake’s afterlife in art, art criticism and the art world in the period 1830-1930 Based entirely on original research. Offers a complete reevaluation of Blake’s position in British visual culture in the period. Challenges current assumptions that the nature of Blake’s afterlife was determined through examination of his poetry. Illustrates how Blake attained classic status by examining a variety of exhibitions, exhibition catalogues and the critical writings they generated in specialist and popular journals. Provides a series of fresh insights into the nature of Victorian and Edwardian art.

Colin Trodd is Lecturer, School of Arts, Cultures and Histories, University of Manchester. Selected previous publications: Victorian Culture and the Idea of the Grotesque (Ashgate, 1999: joint editor) Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century (MUP, 2000: joint editor) Governing Cultures (Ashgate, 2001: joint editor) Representations of G.F. Watts (Ashgate, 2004: joint editor) Blake’s Shadow (Whitworth Art Gallery, 2008: main author) Professional accomplishments and any other biographical information which might be relevant to the promotion of the book: Curator of Blake’s Shadow, an exhibition of reactions to the work of Blake by Victorian and modern British artists (Whitworth Art Gallery, Jan–April 2008; National University, South Korea, Dec. 2008-April 2009). Published on Blake (Blake Modernity and Popular Culture, S. Clark and J. Whittaker eds., Palgrave, 2007) and delivered papers at Blake Conferences. Received an award from the AHRC to undertake research related to the book.


'One of the defining books on Blake's reception - a sheer pleasure to read. Trodd's comprehensive research at last provides us with an understanding of Blake's influence on the art world in the century after his death to match our knowledge of his influence on literature.'
Jason Whittaker

'[T]his wonderful book is a long overdue addition; it not only fills a gap in the existing works on Blake’s art, but is also an important milestone in the recent interest taken in Blake’s literary reception … Trodd makes a number of thought-provoking observations … [and] undertakes a commanding case study of the body of Newton … William Blake’s pervasive cultural presence and status as controversial and innovative painter in Victorian and Edwardian art criticism cannot be doubted. Trodd’s beautiful and carefully researched book offers an amazing range of interconnected opinions about Blake’s achievements and failures as a painter. Blake was an outsider, and it is truly fascinating that his art has spawned so many responses by so many different commentators. This book highlights the varying perceptions of Blake’s personality and artistic outputs— his going in and out of fashion—and encourages us to speculate about the reasons behind publishing his poetry with or without images, beyond what was technologically feasible. Trodd’s exuberant and elegant prose guides us through a mass of material (books, catalogues, essays, journal articles, reviews, letters, artworks, initiatives), supplying long lists of names as well as compact footnotes; his work abounds with interesting detail and information about Blake’s critical afterlife.'
Sibylle Erle, Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly

'Colin Trodd’s Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World 1830–1930, a substantial discussion of a large topic, offers further proof that Blakean adaptation remains an unusually busy area for scholars. One of the values of the book is that it is not confined simply to Blake’s admirers, who too often cast themselves as proudly lonely in their unique capacity to understand Blake in a world that won’t listen. There was, Trodd demonstrates, a lively, various public debate about Blake amongst artists, academics, curators, and the public. Trodd offers remarkably well-informed discussions of Blake’s works, Victorian and Edwardian painting, criticism, curatorial practice, and aesthetic theory as it was discussed in periodicals and elsewhere. This is a highly impressive achievement, and will be a point of reference for Blakeans and scholars of Victorian and Edwardian art for many years.'
The Year’s Work in English Studies

'Colin Trodd’s long and deeply thoughtful study … is particularly good on the anomaly of Blake’s epic subject matter and miniature scale … There are many wondrous things in Visions of Blake as the idea of art and the artist break down under his fierce questioning to reveal the shifting needs of a culture redefining itself. Trodd … offers not only tour de force readings of works by Blake … but also extended discussions of works that seem to Trodd to share qualities with Blake’s art …There’s a wonderful discussion of Frederic Shields’s William Blake’s Work-room and Death-room… In Visions of Blake, Trodd turns reception studies into something new.'
Victorian Studies

'In an extensive, indeed thoroughly exhaustive, study, Colin Trodd returns proper attention to what was the primary sphere of Blake’s reputation until the early years of the twentieth century, as a visual artist whose frequently disturbing inspiration was an important contributing factor to the development of the arts in Britain. Much more than a simple historical survey, Trodd’s book presents an extremely sophisticated account of what he terms ‘Blakeland’, which is sensitive to the shifting nuances of Blake’s reception from one decade to the next … Throughout, Trodd’s scholarship is exemplary and his criticism is extremely carefully argued.'
Visual Culture in Britain

Author Information

Colin Trodd is Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts, Cultures and Histories, University of Manchester. He has co-edited Victorian Culture and the Idea of the Grotesque (Ashgate, 1999), Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century (Manchester University Press, 2000), Governing Cultures (Ashgate, 2001), and Representations of G. F. Watt (Ashgate, 2004), and is the author of Blake's Shadow (Whitworth Art Gallery, 2008).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of Illustrations List of Abbreviations Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Visions of the Sons of William Blake 2. Colossal Blake and the Surface of Victorian Culture 3. Making and Marketing Blakean Mythos 4. Blakean Vision and Experience in the Victorian Art World 5. Another Blakeland; or, the Centrality of the Aesthetic in Late Victorian Painting 6. The Once and Future King: William Blake Among the Stars Select Bibliography Index