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Stephanie Stillo on William Blake

Stephanie Stillo “On William Blake”
Library of Congress
May 15, 2018

On May 15th approximately 15 Chesapeake Chapter members and friends enjoyed an excellent presentation at the Library of Congress by Rosenwald Collection Curator, Stephanie Stillo on William Blake. Blake (1757 to 1827) was an English printmaker, painter, poet, and mystical philosopher, considered to be one of the most remarkable figures of the Romantic period and one of the supreme individualists in the history of art. The Library’s Rosenwald Collection contains one of the finest arrays of books, plates, drawings, and engravings by William Blake ever brought together.

Ms. Stillo had approximately one and a half dozen items from the collection on display for close inspection and to illustrate her talk. In March of 2017 chapter members had the privilege to view the Library’s collection of block books. (For each page of these books the illustrations and text were printed from one carved wood block.) Interestingly, Lessing J. Rosenwald acquired the block books and Blake items at about the same time, and both block books and the books Blake produced integrated text and illustration. Blake wanted to unite his art and poetry into a holistic experience.

Blake created the process of “relief etching.” Relief etching is basically the opposite of intaglio. The image is drawn with acid-resistant varnish and the non-printing surface etched away with acid. Blake then used a leather dauber to slowly and very carefully build up a layer of ink on the plate for printing. Multiple colored inks could be daubed onto a plate so that color illustrations could be printed in one pass. However, some of Blake’s later books had hand-colored illustrations. Blake’s wife was his co-equal in the coloring of plates. Blake’s work was highly influenced by the industrialization and revolutions occurring during his times.

We wish to thank Stephanie Stillo for her time and effort putting together this exceptional event for our chapter.