The Charles Hosmer - Morse Museum of American Art


The Art and Craft of Reproducing William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience

February 18, 2009

2:30 pm

Michael Phillips
Senior Scholar
Winter Park Institute, Winter Park

British poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake (1757–1827) was a revolutionary force during the Romantic Age, bringing groundbreaking works such as Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience to life with unique illustrations made through a relief etching process that he pioneered.

Scholar Michael Phillips will explain Blake’s processes and show examples from the facsimile of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience that he is working on as a part of his residency at the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College. He will also elaborate on how he is producing this facsimile. Blake was a contemporary of authors and poets such as Mary Shelley, Byron, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and is perhaps most readily known for his poem “The Tyger.”

Blake revived and revolutionized the process of relief etching, making it possible to produce both text and illustrations on the same page, at the same time, with a greater degree of accuracy.

With a background as a printmaker, Mr. Phillips has extensive insight into Blake’s methodology. Indeed, Blake’s illustrations are densely interrelated metaphors that expand upon, rather than simply illustrate, the essential themes of his work; Blake even saw the process of producing the plates themselves as a means of illuminating the meaning of the text.

Mr. Phillips, a resident of Edinburgh, Scotland, is currently working on a biography of Blake that looks at the artist’s life in Lambeth, England, during the anti-Jacobean terror, and his edition in facsimile of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is forthcoming from the Bodleian Library and University of Chicago Press. He was the guest curator of the William Blake exhibition that opened spring 2008 at the Petit Palais in Paris, as well as guest curator for major Blake exhibitions at Tate Britain and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His work on Blake earned him fellowships from National Endowment for the Humanities, the Yale Center for British Art, the British Library Center for the Book, and more.