An exhibition which explores the artistic roots of one of the most unusual poets and artists in the English language has opened at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum.
The exhibition "William Blake: Apprentice and Master" brings together prints, drawings, and poems from across the visionary poet and artist's 50-year career from the late 1700s onwards.
Alexander Sturgis, director of the museum, told Xinhua, "The show focuses on the creation of Blake as an artist... and then Blake's role as a restless and revolutionary experimenter in technique. So it is on the technical side of Blake that we focus in this show."
The exhibition recreates for the first time Blake's workshop, which was demolished in 1918, where he created and then reproduced many of his copperplate prints using a printing press, which is also on show. The exhibition also includes more than 90 of Blake's most celebrated works.
Dr Michael Phillips, the curator and an academic expert on Blake at the University of York, said the aim of the exhibition was to explore how some of Blake's works were created and produced, and the exhibition charts Blake's development from apprentice to master, and from poet to artist-printmaker.
Phillips told Xinhua, "As an engraver Blake had to think in negative terms. If you are going to print a text you have to think how it looks backwards. You have to think not in terms of the way it is going to be drawn on a copperplate but of how it is going to be printed, how it is going to look like, after it has been printed, reversed."
Blake was a student of renowned 18th century portrait artist Joshua Reynolds at the Royal Academy in London where he studied for six years.
As part of his studies, Blake also attended lectures on anatomy and also autopsies, said Phillips, and his interest in the form of human bodies, particularly muscles, is demonstrated in some of the prints in the exhibition, such as "Nebuchadnezzar" and his print of Isaac Newton at work.
These studies were carried out against the background of the Enlightenment, which Blake opposed strongly, and he objected to its empirical foundation, which insisted that knowledge comes from sensory experience.
Phillips said of Blake's academic apprenticeship, "Here was this fundamental contrary, advocacy in general principles which of course echoed empiricism and the triumvirate -- the unholy triumvirate of (Francis) Bacon, (Isaac) Newton and (John) Locke -- the whole basis of empiricism, being a specific sense experience of sight and touch and so forth leading to general principles."
"To Blake this was anathema. He believed in the existence of innate experience. He believed everything was born in us, and as he expressed in one of his annotations to Reynolds 'it is like a garden ready sown, everything is there to be nourished'," said Phillips.
He insisted on the minutiae, said Phillips, a thought echoed in one of his most famous poems "Auguries of Innocence -- "To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower".
Award-winning author Philip Pullman, an admirer of Blake's works, attended the exhibition opening.
Pullman said, "The more we see of Blake the more we seem to discover. A great poet, undeniably, a printmaker designer and graphic artist of huge originality and power as we can see all round the walls of this room."
Pullman said Blake was also the maker of "vast and complex myths" and a religious and philosophical thinker.
Pullman said of the exhibition, "It is fascinating to look at the stages of a print emerging gradually from the first marks made on wood or copper and to look at the hefty machinery in the studio. Working in a relatively minute size on vast images."
"Visitors will go away astonished at the volume of work Blake produced in his 70 years, but for me is the grandeur of his imagination -- what it conceived and what it brought forth. His enormously complex mythology was not just made up at random it all comes together, the more we see the more we marvel at its richness, beauty and truth."
The exhibition runs at the Ashmolean Museum until March 1 next year.