Research On Symbolism of Devil (Part 3)

A question came across my mind while researching on William Blake’s works — ‘What was Blake’s motive to draw all these?’ Being part of Romanticism, dissatisfaction to reality, influence under biblical teaching? What I could think of is probably he wanted a ‘break through’ from the norm. Unlike many artists and poets in Romantic Age, Blake wanted to challenge the core idea of social value, tradition and  even religion. The ‘break through’ can more precisely refer to the his creativity, rebelliousness and the way of his story-telling, instead of drawing techniques or visual theories themselves.

It’s an inspiring progress for me to conduct visual research (Fig. 1 to Fig. 19) for Blake’s art. While looking at his sketches, poems, illustrations that utilized the symbolism of devils, I believe he’s seeing a matter from a very different perspective, telling a story from a different angle.

Overall, most of the devil he drew were in human form, with or without wings. Blake’s drawings mainly depict the bible verses, biblical scenario and for book illustrations purpose. The devil that presented by him shows various looks, some come with flame, some accompany with serpent, some grows horns, etc. I personally like his Red Dragon series (Fig. 8 to Fi. 11) the best simply because of of the powerful composition and cutting-edge designs of devil. I believe he was illustrating the scenes in book Revelation in which he designed Satan as a hybrid of an combination of both human and animals forms. In fact, Satan was called ‘dragon’ in book Revelation. Another of my favorite is Satan Calling Up his Legions (Fi, that g. 15) where he portrayed the rise of an evil kingdom from a distinctive perspective.

So my challenge is to avoid the clichéd devil symbolism that massively used by the others. Perhaps what I truly learned from Blake’s drawing is to understand the essence of an idea before putting it into drafts, and breaking through from the past experience.

Fig. 1. William Blake, The Baffled Devils Fighting, 1826. http://www.tate.org.uk

Fig. 2. William Blake, A Squatted Devil with Young Horns, 1810. http://www.wikipedia.com

Fig. 3. William Blake, Michael Binding Satan Canvas, 1805. http://www.tate.org.uk

Fig. 4. William Blake, Satan Before the Throne of God, 1806. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 5. William Blake, Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils, 1826. http://www.tate.org.uk

Fig. 6. William Blake, The Good and Evil Angels, 1805. http://www.tate.org.uk

Fig. 7. William Blake, Job’s Evil Dreams, 1805. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 8. William Blake, The Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, 1803–1805. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 9. William Blake, The Number of the beast is 666, 1803–1805. http://www.wikipedia

Fig. 10. William Blake, The Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, 1803–1810. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 11. William Blake, The Great Red Dragon and the Beast From the Sea, 1810. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 12. William Blake, 1795, Satan Exulting over Eve. http://www.wikipaintings.org

Fig. 13. William Blake, Illustration from Paradise Lost, 1808 (UK: Samuel Simmons)

Fig. 14. William Blake, Illustration from Paradise Lost, 1808 (UK: Samuel Simmons)

Fig. 15. William Blake, 15, Satan Calling Up his Legions, 1804. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 16. William Blake, Satan Calling Up his Legions, 1804. http://www.wikipedia.org

Fig. 17. William Blake, Illustration from Paradise Lost, 1808 (UK: Samuel Simmons)

Fig. 18. William Blake, Illustration from Paradise Lost, 1808 (UK: Samuel Simmons)

Fig 19. William Blake, Illustration from Paradise Lost, 1808 (UK: Samuel Simmons)


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