Etching Out Blake’s Mythological Artist in Contemporary Times

Todd Dearing

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper aims to explore the question: In what ways may Blake’s mythology of the artist provide a viable mode of art practice for artists today, if at all? This question will be contextualised through a comparison of Romanticism to contemporary culture, through which I will outline the similarities and differences in the economic and political conditions of both eras. As Blake’s idea of the artist is essentially one of unlimited creativity, this question will force Blake’s Romantic idealism to confront the economic and political realities of his (and our) world. My paper will include discussion on the relationship between Blake’s visionary ideals of art and the material realities of his own practice as an artist. The relationship between ideal and practice will become a focus for further discussion on the possibility of Blakean approaches to art within contemporary society. I will assess these Blakean theories and practices of art within the economic and political limits or opportunities provided by our own time, in order to answer the question of how viable Blakean approaches to art are today.
Based on this discussion of Blake’s art, I will conclude with some more general reflections on questions around the legacy of Romanticism today, such as: Has the Romantic myth of the artist receded from our contemporary landscape, being now replaced by other factors more present and pressing? Or does it, or can it, live on as it once did during Blake’s lifetime? While I cannot hope to fully answer such larger questions, some parameters around them will be articulated in order to better ascertain the realities of Romanticism in our contemporary world, of which Blake’s art remains to provide a present example.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019
EventWilliam Blake and the Idea of the Artist - Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Nov 201929 Nov 2019


ConferenceWilliam Blake and the Idea of the Artist
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Other Co-organised by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art & Tate Britain Tate Britain and Paul Mellon Centre On the occasion of a major exhibition at Tate Britain, this conference takes the art and life of the exemplary Romantic artist William Blake (1757–1827) as a launching-point for exploring politically pressing questions around the economics of creative freedom, the politics of self-expression and the mythology of the artist. Through presentations and artistic interventions, the event will facilitate creative dialogues between the historic and the contemporary, experience and theory, art and politics, and across and between disciplines. These will consider the work of William Blake with the context of Romanticism and the artistic currents of his times, the creative legacies of his work and the contemporary resonances of Blake’s vision. The conference starts with a keynote lecture by artist Laura Grace Ford on 28 November at Tate Britain and follows with a full day's conference at the Paul Mellon Centre on 29 November.
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  • William Blake
  • Romanticism
  • contemporary culture
  • mythology
  • artist


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