Cover image for William Blake : the painter at work
William Blake : the painter at work
Blake, William, 1757-1827.
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
192 pages : illustrations (some color), portrait ; 29 cm
William Blake at work : "every thing which is in harmony" / Robin Hamlyn -- The state of knowledge on William Blake the painter / Bronwyn Ormsby and Joyce H. Townsend, with Brian Singer and John Dean -- Analytical methods / Joyce H. Townsend -- The vivid surface : Blake's use of paper and board / Peter Bower -- Watercolour methods, and materials use in context / Noa Cahaner McManus and Joyce H. Townsend -- The large colour prints : methods and materials / Noa Cahaner McManus and Joyce H. Townsend -- The conservation of a large colour print : Satan exulting over Eve / Piers Townshend and Joyce H. Townsend -- The painting of the temperas / Bronwyn Ormsby with Brian Singer and John Dean -- Blake's use of tempera in context / Bronwyn Ormsby with Joyce H. Townsend, Brian Singer and John Dean -- The appearance of the temperas today / Bronwyn Ormsby with Brian Singer and John Dean -- The presentation of Blake's paintings / Joyce H. Townsend, Robin Hamlyn and John Anderson.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6797.B57 A4 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



William Blake: The Painter at Work offers an innovative and revealing approach to one of the most individual of all British artists. Although the highly idiosyncratic nature of Blake's techniques has long been recognized, this is the first book to explore the practical methods behind his unique style--providing a fuller understanding of exactly how this secretive artist worked as a painter.

Richly illustrated with Blake's temperas, watercolors, and color prints and drawings, the book includes essays by leading international authorities who illuminate Blake's techniques and materials using up-to-the-minute research methods. Their analysis of numerous individual works reveals, for example, that Blake used essentially the same range of colors in them all, even if some of the more than 100 temperas he painted from 1799 to 1826 have since darkened or faded.

The book consists of four main sections. Introductory chapters are followed by essays on Blake's watercolors, large color prints, and temperas. An epilogue discusses the presentation of the paintings, and appendices provide more detail on the works discussed. The contributors are John Anderson, Peter Bower, Noa Cahaner McManus, John Dean, Robin Hamlyn, Bronwyn Ormsby, Brian Singer, Joyce H. Townsend, and Piers Townshend.

William Blake: The Painter at Work not only casts new light on the incomparable oeuvre that made Blake one of the most perennially popular of visual artists but also points to ways of preserving this work for future generations. There are still unanswered questions, but now there are answers too.

Author Notes

Joyce H. Townsend is Senior Conservation Scientist at the Tate and the author of Turner's Painting Techniques .

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

William Blake himself said, "You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough." While those with a general interest in Blake may find here a surfeit of detail regarding the painter and poet's technique, for Blake experts, painters, and conservationists this will be just enough. Townsend (senior conservation scientist, Tate; Turner's Painting Techniques) gathers essays by eight other Blake experts who explore the impact of various factors on his work, including the size and lighting of his working quarters, his moderate myopia, and contemporary studies of the techniques and recipes of the Old Masters. They discuss the paper and board he painted on, use various types of infrared technologies to explore the substance of paints he used and his method of employing them, and compare his paints with paints today. The text is rounded out by discussion of the discovery of better ways to frame and display the paintings. The book's intense focus on the practicalities of painting make this appropriate for libraries specializing in art, art history, or Blake studies.-Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

It is hard to believe there is anything new to discover or say about the works of Blake, but this important and fascinating study edited by Townsend (Tate Gallery) is the first to explore the practical methods behind his unique style. Using the latest research methods, she and her associates devoted their studies to Blake's work as a painter in tempera and watercolors as well as his color prints and drawings and discovered that the same range of colors appears in all these works, although many have darkened or faded. Clearly organized, the book starts with Hamlyn's introduction on Blake at work, an essay on Blake as a painter; and another by Townsend on analytical methods. Part 2 is devoted to Blake's watercolors, including the use of paper and board and the methods and materials used in context; part 3 considers the large color print methods, materials, and conservation, of one in particular. Part 4 is devoted to the temperas and their use in context and appearance today. An essay on the presentation of Blake's paintings concludes the book. First-rate color and black-and-white illustrations including scientific details add to this valuable, first-rate study and important contribution. ^BSumming Up: Essential. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. T. J. McCormick emeritus, Wheaton College (MA)