Sunday, October 16, 2016

William Blake at John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller in San Francisco

The complaint of Job. courtesy FAMSF
After 50 years in the book trade and 43 years operating John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller, longtime rare book dealer, John Windle, launched his retrospective of the artist in October, 2016, within San Francisco’s historic 49 Geary building. The first physical space exclusively dedicated to Blake's work in over two hundred years, The William Blake Gallery is displaying over 1,000 original Blake pieces alongside thousands of reproductions of the artist’s own writings and artwork, including one of a kind books, reproducing Blake's own books in a magnificent display of craftsmanship
The Lovers' Whirlwind, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, Wikipedia
The opening exhibition features works by Blake's own hand, including a stunning tempera painting, an important preparatory wash painting, and the earliest impression of an illuminated plate printed by Blake ever offered for sale - a proof plate from Songs of Innocence. Also exhibited are many other prints of unparalleled quality, displaying Blake's range and many of his most iconic images.

 Over the years, I have had some great talks with Mr. Windle, and have been impressed by the depth and breadth of his knowledge and was immensely impressed by this collection. I don't think any of our museums have any pieces by Blake on display.

Of the decision to open a gallery of William Blake’s works, John Windle remarks: “I must be stark raving mad. Like Blake.”

William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and print maker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His prophetic works have been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". Although he lived in London his entire life (except for three years spent in Felpham), he produced a diverse and symbolically rich oeuvre, which embraced the imagination as "the body of God"or "human existence itself". His work and beliefs are far to complex to be summarized in one paragraph but they include political beliefs that were revolutionary and anarchist, anti-slavery, pro free love, radical religious ideas, and a humanitarian goal of wholeness of body and spirit. His visionary works, complex and symbolic were looked upon with scorn by the critics of the day and he lived and died in poverty.

There is a complete set of Blake's illustrations to the Book of Job, Dante's Inferno, Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Gates of Paradise, and one of Blake's few paintings, "The Virgin Hushing," 1799, Tempera on Paper.

In his set of essays about "The Romantic Rebellion," Sir Kenneth Clark describes Blake as producing, in his best work, "a concentration of poetry and a prophetic power that make him one of the key figures in the Romantic movement."  Blake was a religious artist for a new non-Christian art, in which his illustrations suggest divine energy more convincingly than anybody "since Michelangelo."

John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller, 49 Geary St, #205, SF. Check at the store to have the gallery opened for a visit.

Visit the gallery:
The book store:

Other references: Northrup Frye, Blake
Martin Myrone, The Blake Book
Robert N. Essick. William Blake at the Huntington

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

Not being an artist or in the art world, there are not a lot of folks I've heard of that you write about. However, I DO know of William Blake's work and I'm a fan. Were I not on the other side of the country, I would be bugging this bookseller to let me in! I enjoyed the biographical information on Blake also, especially about his ideas and ideals, which, I'm sure, were fairly radical at the time.