English ‘Romantic’ painter, printmaker, and poet William Blake (1757-1827) was a radical visionary. He expressed his mystical views through paintings, engravings, and poetry. Blake was never inclined to represent the materialistic things around him. The concept of his work was driven by religious visions. Blake’s unusual capability to capture and portray a theme from just his imagination shows his sheer brilliance as an artist. One of his most amazing paintings was a relief called “The Ancient of Days,” created in 1794.
This print of 23 cm x 17 cm (9″ x 7″) in size was made from a copperplate engraving. “The Ancient of Days” was actually a cover illustration for his book of poems ‘Europe, a Prophecy,’ which Blake published in 1794. William Blake claimed to have created this alluring image based on a vision he had over a staircase while he was living in Lambeth. It may not seem that there is an obvious connection between the print and its title, however, its a known fact that in his prophecies, Prophet Daniel referred to God as “The ancient of Days.” Blake made the print with intricate detail and hand painted it using deep vibrant watercolors.
The image features an old but strong looking man sitting on one knee in a sphere bending down. The bright coloring of the sphere makes it seem like the sun surrounded by a dark cloudy sky depicted in maroons and browns. The man has long white hair and a white beard. He is stretching to bend downwards outside the sphere holding a huge compass in his left hand, as if taking a measurement. William Blake was termed eccentric, for he rejected all the conventional norms of religion and formed his own beliefs. He often conveyed his ideology through his works. “The Ancient of Days” is one such illustration where Blake portrays ‘Urizen’ (a name he had given to the creator of the universe in his writings). This magnificent illuminated print is proof of Blake’s inventive creative genius and skillful artistry.
“The Ancient of Days” was a personal favorite of Blake’s. It is currently housed at the British Museum in London. His innovative artwork may not have been well received during his lifetime, but today they are considered great masterpieces. William Blake’s artwork is deemed unique and critics have tagged him as one of the greatest artists Britain produced.