The Challenge of Energy

  • John Beer
Part of the Literary Lives book series (LL)


Even while the events in France were unfolding, Blake’s life was affected by a new acquaintance, who proved a more turbulent influence. Some of his early enthusiasm for Swedenborgianism evidently derived from the fact that his friend John Flaxman was associated with the sect. Flaxman, a gentle and humane man, was to remain a friend for most of Blake’s life and seems always to have appealed to his more visionary side. For several years from 1787, however, Flaxman was in Rome, where he had gone with his family to improve his knowledge of sculpture, and during this time Blake got to know another artistic contemporary, Henry Fuseli. Unlike Flaxman, who had been brought up in England and learnt his trade in the workshop of his father, providing casts for sculptors, Fuseli had been born in Switzerland, and initially trained for the Zwinglian ministry. After protesting against the activities of a corrupt magistrate, however, he left the church and travelled to London, where for some time he worked as a translator and so came across the writings of Rousseau, imbibing particularly his arguments against the ‘moral util¬ity’ of the arts. Having then decided to become a painter he too spent time in Italy, exploring his passion for Michelangelo. Although he was to incur criticisms of his painting technique, the style he developed impressed many by its expressive and passionate qualities.


French Revolution Painting Technique Paradise Lost Passionate Quality Enlightenment Philosophy 
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  1. 1.
    Mona Wilson, Life of William Blake (1948) p. 310.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    A. Blunt, The Art of William Blake (1959) p. 41.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    ‘The Dethe of Charles Bawdin’: see Harold Bloom, Blake’s Apocalypse (1963) p. 83.Google Scholar

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© John Beer 2005

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  • John Beer

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