Posts Tagged ‘sexual freedom

29
Jan
20

European research tour exhibition: ‘William Blake’ at Tate Britain, London Part 1

Exhibition dates: 11th September 2019 – 2nd February 2020

Curators: Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790-1850

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This first of two parts of this humongous posting. This exhibition has to be one of the highlights of my (art) life. The techniques, the colours, the forms and the MAGIC of Blake’s compositions brought me to tears.

I will write more on the work in the second part of the posting.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the media images in the posting. All other installation photographs as noted by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Every page is a window open in Heaven … interwoven designs companion the poems, and gold and yellow tints diffuse themselves over the page like summer clouds. The poems [of Songs of Innocence] are the morning song of Blake’s genius.”

.
W.B. Yeats

 

“Blake sang of the ideal world, of the truth of the intellect, and of the divinity of the imagination. … The only writer to have written songs for children with the soul of a child … he holds, in my view, a unique position because he unites intellectual sharpness with mystic sentiment.”

.
James Joyce

 

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain
© Tate
Photos: Seraphina Neville

 

 

Tate Britain presents the largest survey of work by William Blake (1757-1827) in the UK for a generation. A visionary painter, printmaker and poet, Blake created some of the most iconic images in the history of British art and has remained an inspiration to artists, musicians, writers and performers worldwide for over two centuries. This ambitious exhibition brings together over 300 remarkable and rarely seen works and rediscovers Blake as a visual artist for the 21st century.

Tate Britain reimagines the artist’s work as he intended it to be experienced. Blake’s art was a product of his tumultuous times, with revolution, war and progressive politics acting as the crucible of his unique imagination, yet he struggled to be understood and appreciated during his life. Now renowned as a poet, Blake also had grand ambitions as a visual artist and envisioned vast frescos that were never realised. For the first time, The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan c. 1805-9 and The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth c. 1805 have been enlarged and projected onto the gallery wall on the huge scale that Blake imagined. The original artworks are displayed nearby in a re-staging of Blake’s ill-fated exhibition of 1809, the artist’s only significant attempt to create a public reputation for himself as a painter. Tate has recreated the domestic room above his family hosiery shop in which the show was held, allowing visitors to encounter the paintings exactly as people did over 200 years ago.

The exhibition also provides a vivid biographical framework in which to consider Blake’s life and work. There is a focus on London, the city in which he was born and lived for most of his life. The burgeoning metropolis was a constant source of inspiration for the artist, offering an environment in which harsh realities and pure imagination were woven together. Blake’s creative freedom was also dependent on the unwavering support of those closest to him: his friends, family and patrons. Tate Britain highlights the vital presence of his wife Catherine Blake who offered both practical assistance and became an unacknowledged hand in the production of the artist’s engravings and illuminated books. The exhibition showcases a series of illustrations to Pilgrim’s Progress 1824-27 and a copy of the book The Complaint, and the Consolation, or, Night Thoughts 1797, now thought to be coloured by Catherine.

William Blake was a staunch defender of the fundamental role of art in society and the importance of artistic freedom. Shaped by his personal struggles in a period of political terror and oppression, his technical innovation, and his political commitment, these beliefs have inspired the generations that followed and remain pertinent today. Tate Britain’s exhibition opens with Albion Rose c. 1793, an exuberant visualisation of the mythical founding of Britain, created in contrast to the commercialisation, austerity and crass populism of the times. A section of the exhibition is also dedicated to his illuminated books such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience 1794, his central achievement as a radical poet.

Additional highlights include some of Blake’s best-known works including Newton 1795 – c. 1805 and Ghost of a Flea c. 1819-20. This intricate painting was inspired by a séance-induced vision and is shown alongside a rarely seen preliminary sketch. The exhibition closes with The Ancient of Days 1827, an illustration for an edition of Europe: A Prophecy, completed only days before the artist’s death.

William Blake at Tate Britain is curated by Martin Myrone, Senior Curator, pre-1800 British Art, and Amy Concannon, Curator, British Art 1790-1850. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Text from Tate Britain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Albion Rose (installation views)
c. 1793
Colour engraving
250 x 211 mm
Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This image exemplifies how any single work by Blake might have multiple meanings. It can be related to several different strands within Blake’s poetry and thought. The figure has been reinterpreted many times, as a symbol of youthful rebellion, spiritual freedom and of creativity. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Albion Rose' c. 1793

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Albion Rose
c. 1793
Colour engraving
250 x 211 mm
Courtesy of the Huntington Art Collections

 

 

William Blake

The art and poetry of William Blake have influenced generations. He has inspired many creative people, political radicals and independent minds. His images and words are admired around the world for their originality and spirituality.

Blake lived at a time of radical thought, war and global unrest. The British Empire was expanding. New ideas about social justice developed alongside rapid industrialisation. Blake created imaginative images and texts that resonated with this changing world. They drew on his deeply felt religious beliefs and personal struggles.

The exhibition is organised chronologically. It takes us through the ups and downs of Blake’s creative and professional life. The full range of Blake’s work is on display here. His commercial engravings, original prints, his unique ‘illuminated books’ and paintings are all included. These have been drawn from public and private collections from around the world. To preserve these rarely seen objects, the light levels across the exhibition are deliberately low.

Blake’s art and poetry have appealed to many kinds of people, for different reasons. His work has provoked diverse interpretations. This exhibition does not try to explain Blake’s imagery and symbolism in a definitive way.

Instead it considers the reception of his art and how it was experienced by his contemporaries. It sets out the personal and social conditions in which it was made. In doing so we hope to reveal the circumstances that gave Blake the freedom to create such innovative works. (Wall text)

 

Room 1

The art and poetry of William Blake have influenced generations. He has inspired many creative people, political radicals and independent minds. His images and words are admired around the world for their originality and spirituality.

Blake lived at a time of radical thought, war and global unrest. The British Empire was expanding. New ideas about social justice developed alongside rapid industrialisation. Blake created imaginative images and texts that resonated with this changing world. They drew on his deeply felt religious beliefs and personal struggles.

The exhibition is organised chronologically. It takes us through the ups and downs of Blake’s creative and professional life. The full range of Blake’s work is on display here. His commercial engravings, original prints, his unique ‘illuminated books’ and paintings are all included. These have been drawn from public and private collections from around the world. To preserve these rarely seen objects, the light levels across the exhibition are deliberately low.

Blake’s art and poetry have appealed to many kinds of people, for different reasons. His work has provoked diverse interpretations. This exhibition does not try to explain Blake’s imagery and symbolism in a definitive way. Instead it considers the reception of his art and how it was experienced by his contemporaries. It sets out the personal and social conditions in which it was made. In doing so we hope to reveal the circumstances that gave Blake the freedom to create such innovative works.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph Making himself Known to his Brethren' 1784-5 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph Making himself Known to his Brethren' 1784-5 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph Making himself Known to his Brethren (installation views)
1784-5
India ink and watercolour over graphite on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London showing at left, Blake’s Joseph’s Brethren Bowing down before him (1784-5) and at right, Joseph Ordering Simeon to be Bound (1784-5)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The story of Joseph

Blake’s bitter view of the contemporary art world has its origins in the disappointments and frustrations he experienced early in his career.

In 1785 Blake exhibited these three watercolour designs showing the biblical story of Joseph. Blake showed them at the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, the main showcase for contemporary art.

Students at the Academy were encouraged to depict serious, dramatic subject matter in a classical style. But these exhibitions were filled with more commercial artworks. The exhibition catalogue, also on display here, shows the dominance of portraits, landscapes and light-hearted ‘fancy’ subjects. Being watercolours, Blake’s designs were shown in a separate space where they got less public attention than the oil paintings in the main gallery. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph's Brethren Bowing down before him' 1784-5 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph's Brethren Bowing down before him' 1784-5 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph’s Brethren Bowing down before him (installation views)
1784-5
India ink and watercolour over graphite on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London with at bottom middle, Drawing of the legs of Cincinnatus (c. 1779-80)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake wall text

 

William Blake wall text

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Drawing of the legs of Cincinnatus' c. 1779-80

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Drawing of the legs of Cincinnatus
c. 1779-80
Ink and wash over graphite on paper
Bolton Museum and Archive
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This intimate and apparently casually-drawn portrait shows Catherine Blake (née Boucher, 1762-1831). William and Catherine were married from 1782 until Blake’s death in 1827. Catherine played a huge part in Blake’s creative and commercial work. She helped him with printing and colouring his works, even finishing some of his drawings. Blake’s extraordinary vision depended on his partnership with Catherine. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Catherine Blake' 1805 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Catherine Blake (installation view)
1805
Graphite on paper
286 x 221 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Catherine Blake' 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Catherine Blake
1805
Graphite on paper
286 x 221 mm
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940

 

 

A portrait of William Blake, thought to be his only self-portrait, will be exhibited in the UK for the first time in a major survey of his work at Tate Britain. In the 200 years since its creation, the detailed pencil drawing only been shown once before and never in the artist’s own country. It offers a unique insight into the visionary painter, printmaker and poet responsible for some of Britain’s best loved artwork and will be displayed alongside a sketch of Blake’s wife Catherine from the same period, highlighting her vital contribution to his life and work.

Created when Blake was around 45 years old, the work is thought to present an idealised likeness. Rather than showing Blake as a painter or engraver, signs of his creative intensity are conveyed in his direct hypnotic gaze. This compelling image was produced after 1802, at a turning-point in Blake’s life. Having lived in Sussex for three years and been falsely accused of treason, Blake returned to his native city of London and was re-establishing himself as an artist. The portrait shows Blake as an isolated and misunderstood figure.

A crucial presence in Blake’s life, Catherine offered both practical assistance and became an unacknowledged hand in the production of his engravings and illuminated books. His visual art and poetry began to develop in original ways only after their marriage in 1782. At the time she was illiterate but learnt to read and write with her husband and became an accomplished printmaker in her own right. Together, these rare examples of Blake’s portraiture highlight the ways in which his extraordinary vision was dependent on the domestic stability of his life with Catherine.

Text from the Tate Britain website

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Portrait of William Blake' c. 1802 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Portrait of William Blake (installation view)
c. 1802
Graphite with black, white and grey washes on paper
Collection of Robert N. Essick
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This is probably a self-portrait drawn by Blake when he was in his 40s. It does not present him in the act of writing or drawing. Instead, the image invites us to see his intense gaze as a sign of his creative force. This perhaps reflects his claim that he saw visions. Blake’s art and personal behaviuor divided contemporary opinion. A few friends and supporters accepted him as a genius. Many others considered him eccentric or questioned his mental health. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Portrait of William Blake' c. 1802

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Portrait of William Blake
c. 1802
Graphite with black, white and grey washes on paper
Collection of Robert N. Essick
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

‘Blake be an artist!’

Blake was born in London in 1757, the son of a fairly successful shopkeeper in Broad Street, Soho. Blake wanted to be an artist from an early age. His family indulged his passion. They bought prints and plaster casts for him to copy, paid for drawing lessons and funded his training as an apprentice engraver. In 1779 he enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy of Arts. This gallery explores the art he created in the years that followed. It was during this time that he developed his ambitions as an original artist and poet.

The Royal Academy encouraged its students to imitate the great art of the past. They were expected to copy antique sculptures and look to Renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Raphael for inspiration.

Blake later rejected the more rigid ideas associated with Academic teaching. He sought to create a more personal vision and began to identify with the ‘Gothic’ artists of the medieval past. He felt the Academy was being taken over by portrait painters motivated by self-interest. But he did admire some ambitious and individualistic figures there. These included James Barry and Henry Fuseli. Blake took seriously their ideas about painting great public works full of moral purpose and drama. The conflict between such aims and the realities of a cynical and market-driven art world would be a shaping force in Blake’s creative life. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Academy Study' 1779-80 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Academy Study (installation view)
1779-80
Graphite on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Early drawings and watercolours

Blake’s earliest drawings typically used sweeping lines and areas of grey washed ink or watercolour. His figures make grand gestures in bare, even abstract, settings.

His style was based on the innovative art of the 1760s and 1770s, especially the drawings of James Barry, Henry Fuseli, and John Flaxman. They became well known for creating works with strong visual and emotional impact and communicating ideas in a bold way.

Blake’s subjects were often drawn from history, literature and the Bible. This was in keeping with the teaching of the Royal Academy and traditional ideas about ‘high art’. However, Blake’s subject matter from these early years is sometimes unclear. Spiritual forms, ghosts and visions start to appear. This means that the story and meaning of his individual works can be difficult to decipher. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London showing Blake’s Age Teaching Youth (c. 1785-90)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'An Allegory of the Bible' c. 1780-85 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
An Allegory of the Bible (installation view)
c. 1780-85
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate, Bequeathed by Miss Rachel M. Dyer 1969
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Blake started using more colours in the mid-1780s. The mysterious subject matter of this design is new as well. The title is not the artist’s own. It was added by later commentators, as is often the case with Blake’s symbolic designs. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'An Allegory of the Bible' c. 1780-85

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
An Allegory of the Bible
c. 1780-85
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate, Bequeathed by Miss Rachel M. Dyer 1969

 

 

The title of this work is not Blake’s, but its theme seems to be the revelation of knowledge.

Unusually, the foreground and background were both painted initially with a single base colour. The figures and the screen behind those in the background were applied straight onto the white paper. The screen and the lower half of the sky behind it were originally painted a deep rose, with a red lake pigment that is probably brazilwood. This has lost so much colour, except at the edges, that it gives the unintended effect of a flat brown base tone to the whole screen.

Gallery label, September 2004

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London showing Blake’s The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (c. 1780-85)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

This is an illustration of one of Christ’s parables, which appears in several biblical sources.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares' c. 1780-85 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Good Farmer, Probably the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (installation view)
c. 1780-85
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Tiriel

In the late 1780s Blake had established a reputation as a designer and poet among a small circle of friends. He began writing an epic poem, which he also intended to illustrate. It is not clear how Blake would have funded the production of an illustrated edition and it was not published.

Blake’s manuscript and many of the surviving drawings are displayed here. The story combined elements of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare. It also drew on supposedly ancient Gaelic stories (actually composed by the Scottish writer James Macpherson in the 1760s). The narrative concerns a king, now blind, his arguments with his sons and daughters, and his encounter with his elderly parents, Har and Heva. The language is dramatic, with exaggerated imagery suggesting surging emotions, ‘Thunder & fire & pestilence’.

The project represents the culmination of Blake’s early efforts as a painter and poet. It also exposes how his ambitions to combine epic images and texts were frustrated by conventional publishing techniques. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' c. 1786

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing
c. 1786
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 475 × 675 mm
Tate. Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

The subject is from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream illustrating Titania’s instruction to her fairy train in the last scene:

Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.

Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies, are on the left. Puck, the perplexer of mortals, faces us. The fairies Moth and Peaseblossom are easily identifiable.

During the 1780s there was a growing taste for Shakespeare illustrations. Blake had formed a print-publishing partnership in 1784. If the approximate dating of this work is correct, it may represent an attempt by Blake to break into this market.

Supernatural and fantastical subject matter like this enjoyed great popularity in Blake’s time.

Wall text from the exhibition and gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' c. 1786 (installation view detail)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing' c. 1786 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (installation view details)
c. 1786
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 475 × 675 mm
Tate. Presented by Alfred A. de Pass in memory of his wife Ethel 1910
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

Installation views of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation views of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy E)' 1794 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy E)' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Europe, A Prophecy (Copy E) (installation views)
1794
Book, 17 plates on 10 leaves
Open to plates 17: Ethinius queen of waters... and 18 Shot from the heights of Enitharrnon
Relief and white-line etching with colour printing and hand colouring
Library of Congress. Lessing J. Rosenwald collection, 1806
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy A)' 1794 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Europe, A Prophecy (Copy A)' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Europe, A Prophecy (Copy A) (installation views)
1794
Book, 17 plates on 17 leaves
Open to Plate 2, title page
Colour-printed relief etching in dark brown with pen and black ink, oil and watercolour on paper
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Europe, A Prophecy relates contemporary historical events – specifically the French Revolution – in an epic, symbolic form. As Blake’s biographer Alexander Gilchrist (1828-1861) observed of the book: ‘It is hard to describe poems wherein the dramatis personae are giant shadows, gloomy phantoms; the scene, the realms of space; the time, of such corresponding vastness, that eighteen hundred years pass as a dream’. Catherine Blake is likely to have coloured many of the plates in this copy, including the title page. This copy, may be that bought from Blake by the painter George Romney (1734-1802). (Label text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen' pl. 6 1796, printed c. 1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen pl. 6 ‘I sought Pleasure & found Pain, Unntennable’
1796, printed c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The First Book of Urizen (Copy G)' 1794, printed c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The First Book of Urizen (Copy G)' 1794, printed c. 1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The First Book of Urizen (Copy G) (installation views)
1794, printed c. 1818
27 leaves, open to plate number 14
Relief etching printed in yellow brown with watercolour and gold
Library of Congress. Lessing J. Rosenwald collection, 1807
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

During his lifetime, Blake’s books were appreciated by collectors for their visual qualities far more than for their political and literary content. The First Book of Urizen was first printed in 1794. It was already strongly visual. In this new copy, printed in around 1818, Blake has enhanced this full-page image with intense colouring and gold. (Label text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy H)' c. 1790 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy H)
c. 1790
Book, 27 plates on 15 leaves
Open to title page
Relief etching with hand-colouring
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy B)' c. 1790 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy B)' c. 1790 (installation view)

William Blake label text

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (Copy B) (installation views)
c. 1790
Book, 27 plates on 15 leaves
Open to A Memorable Fancy
Relief etched plates in coloured inks with gluebased pigments and hand-colouring paper
Bodlieian Libraries, University of Oxford
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

A Memorable Fancy describes Blake’s invention of relief etching in symbolic terms. His text does little to explain his process practically. Blake’s commitment to individualism and rebellious nature are present in this description of art-making as an experimental and inspired process. This copy belonged to the scholar and collector Francis Douce (1757-1834) and may be in his original binding. (Label text)

 

Relief etching

Blake conceived his technique of relief etching in around 1788. He claimed this was under the inspiration of his brother Robert, who had died in 1787. The technical details of his method have long fascinated and frustrated scholars and collectors and remain debated.

Engraving and etching involve making lines in a copper plate which are filled with ink to create the printed image. Relief etching, on the other hand, involves using acid to eat away areas of the plate that you want to leave unprinted. The remaining surfaces are inked and printed. Relief etching allowed Blake to combine hand-written texts and images on a single plate. These were normally entirely separate processes. Blake also experimented in printing with colours, and added pen and ink, watercolour and later on gold to create more dense, painterly images. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Book of Thel (Copy I)' c. 1789 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
There is no Natural Religion (Copy B) (installation view)
c. 1788 (composition date)
c. 1794 (print date)
Book, 11 plates on 11 leaves
Open to Plate 10. I Mans Perceptions are not Bounded…
Colour-printed relief etching on paper
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

This collection of short philosophical statements was one of Blake’s first experiments in relief etching. This copy, printed in coloured inks, was produced in 1794. (Label text)

 

 

Room 2

Making prints, making a living

 

“I curse & bless Engraving alternately because it takes so much time & is so untractable.
tho capable of such beauty & perfection”
.
William Blake

.
Blake was trained as a reproductive engraver. This exacting craft involved copying an image by cutting fine lines onto a metal plate so that it could be printed and reproduced many times. Blake enjoyed the precision of this work. He gained a good reputation and engraving provided him with an income throughout his life. He was sometimes employed to design as well as engrave illustrations, and for a short period from 1784 ran his own print publishing business with his friend and fellow engraver James Parker.

While Blake admired the uncompromising qualities of older prints, the market favoured more obviously decorative techniques. Blake could adapt his style, but he found the limitations of commercial work frustrating.

Around 1788 Blake invented a new form of printmaking, ‘relief etching’. He described the technique in poetic rather than practical terms so his exact methods remain mysterious. The process allowed Blake to print in colour and combine texts and images. Blake used the technique to create a succession of visionary books. These engaged with the most pressing moral and political questions of the day, including revolution, sexual freedom and the slave trade. Blake’s illuminated books combined poetry and images in experimental ways. His images rarely illustrate the text directly. He also printed some of the images separately without words. Later in life Blake continued to print copies for fellow artists and rare book collectors, adding richer colours and gold to make them more visually enticing. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion' c. 1810 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion (installation view)
c. 1810
Engraving using carbon ink on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion' c. 1810

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion (installation view)
c. 1810
Engraving using carbon ink on paper
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Los and Orc' c. 1792-3

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Los and Orc
c. 1792-3
Ink and watercolour on paper
217 × 295 mm
Tate. Presented by Mrs Jane Samuel in memory of her husband 1962
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This watercolour represents a turning-point in Blake’s art because it depicts a subject taken from his invented mythology which he used across the illuminated books. The figures appear to be the characters Los, representing imagination, and the chained Orc, the spirit of rebellion. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Hell beneath is Moved for thee, to Meet thee at thy Coming Isaiah, xiv, 9' c. 1780-85 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Hell beneath is Moved for thee, to Meet thee at thy Coming (installation view)
Isaiah, xiv, 9
c. 1780-85
Ink and grey wash on toned paper
Lent by her Majesty The Queen
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Lucifer and the Pope in Hell' c. 1794-96

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Lucifer and the Pope in Hell
c. 1794-96
Etching or engraving printed in colour with gum or glue-based pigments and hand-finished with watercolours and ink on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This image was produced using Blake’s relief etching method, printed in colour with additional pen and ink and watercolour, to create a dense, painterly effect. It is based on an earlier drawing. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Frontispiece to ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ (installation view)
c. 1795
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Plate 4 of ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ (installation view)
c. 1795
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Frontispiece to 'Visions of the Daughters of Albion' c. 1795 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Frontispiece to ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion’ (installation view)
c. 1795
Relief etching, ink and watercolour on paper
Tate
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 7, ‘Of life on his forsaken mountains’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 8, ‘dark seascape with figure in water’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 7, 'Of life on his forsaken mountains' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 7, ‘Of life on his forsaken mountains’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'A Small Book of Designs copy A object 7 The First Book of Urizen plate 23' 1796

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
A Small Book of Designs copy A object 7 The First Book of Urizen plate 23
1796
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
The William Blake Archive, The British Museum
Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 8, 'dark seascape with figure in water' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 8, ‘dark seascape with figure in water’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by the British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 9, 'Lo, a shadow of horror' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 9, ‘Lo, a shadow of horror’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Small Book of Designs: Plate 11, 'Gowned Male Seen from behind' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Small Book of Designs: Plate 11, ‘Gowned Male Seen from behind’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etching with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Book of Thel, Plate 6' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Book of Thel, Plate 6' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Book of Thel, Plate 6' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Book of Thel, Plate 6 ‘Doth God take Care of these’ (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members,Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Copy A, Plate 7 in 'The First Book of Urizen' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Copy A, Plate 7 in ‘The First Book of Urizen’ (installation view)
1794
Colour relief etching predominantly in black, grey and pink, with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Copy A, plate 12, Design from 'Preludium' in 'The First Book of Urizen' 1794 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Copy A, plate 12, Design from ‘Preludium’ in ‘The First Book of Urizen’ (installation view)
1794
Colour-printed relief etchings with hand-colouring, on paper
Lent by The British Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 10' 1796, c. 1818

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 10' 1796, c. 1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 10 ‘Every thing is an attempt, To be Human’ (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 10 ‘Every thing is an attempt, To be Human’
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

“I was in a Printing house in Hell, & saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.”

.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell c. 1790

 

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 15 (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 15' 1796, c. 1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 15 ‘Vegetating in fibres of Blood’
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 17 ‘Is the Female Death, Become new Life’ (installation views)
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'First Book of Urizen, Plate 17' 1796, c.1818

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
First Book of Urizen, Plate 17 ‘Is the Female Death, Become new Life’
1796, c. 1818
Etching with paint, watercolour and ink on paper
Tate. Purchased with funds provided by the Art Fund, Tate Members, Tate Patrons, Tate Fund and individual donors 2009
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Songs of Innocence (1789), Songs of Experience (1793) and the combined Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) are the best known of Blake’s illuminated books. He sold more copies of these books than any other (although he probably printed no more than 30 in his lifetime).

The poems deal with themes of childhood and morality, and include striking observations about suffering and social injustice. The visual style is highly decorative. The dense crowding of texts and borders is suggestive of illustrations to children’s books or even embroidered samplers. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

Installation view of the exhibition 'William Blake' at Tate Britain, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition William Blake at Tate Britain, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) America, A Prophecy (Copy M) Plate 13, 'Fiery the Angels Rose...' 1793 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) America, A Prophecy (Copy M) Plate 13, 'Fiery the Angels Rose...' 1793 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
America, A Prophecy (Copy M) Plate 13, ‘Fiery the Angels Rose…’ (installation view)
1793
18 plates on 18 leaves, disbound
Colour-printed relief etching in brown with ink and watercolour on paper
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The American War of Independence (1775-83) was the key historical event of Blake’s youth. It shattered the British elite’s assumptions that they could rule over a global, English-speaking empire. For many others, including Blake, it was a heroic overturning of the oppressive old order. Blake’s poem deals with historical events in mythical terms. The central character is Orc, the spirit of revolution, who pursues the ‘shadowy daughter of Urthona’. It was produced at a time when the French Revolution inspired both hope and fear that revolution would spread across Europe. (Wall text)

 

Room 3

Patronage and independence

Throughout his life Blake depended upon the support of family and friends. These included several fellow-artists and amateurs, including John and Ann FlaxmanThomas Stothard and George Cumberland. In the 1790s Blake started selling works to Thomas Butts, a senior civil servant. Butts became his most important patron, eventually owning up to 200 works by the artist. The Rev. Joseph Thomas also commissioned series of watercolours illustrating Milton and Shakespeare. The wealthy poet William Hayley was another important supporter. In 1800-3 Blake went to work for Hayley, moving with Catherine to Sussex.

The move opened up new connections, with the Rev. John Johnson and Elizabeth Ilive, Countess of Egremont. The support of Flaxman, Butts, Hayley and their friends gave Blake a degree of financial stability. Blake’s patrons were well-off and socially established, much more so than the artist. They admired the artist’s unconventional character and independent spirit. But Blake resented being their employee and the advice they sometimes offered. As a result these relationships often became strained. (Wall text)

 

Edward Young (British, 1683-1765) 'Night Thoughts' 1797 (installation view)

 

Edward Young (British, 1683-1765)
Night Thoughts (installation view)
1797
Book, 43 plates on 43 leaves
Engravings with hand-colouring
By courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Blake produced over 530 watercolours for Edward Young’s long poem on ‘life, death and immortality’. He created bold designs in large margins around each sheet of the printed text. These often give literal form to ideas in the text. Publisher Richard Edwards commissioned Blake, but later abandoned the project and closed down his business. Blake had asked for over £100 for the designs but was paid only £21. He despaired, writing in 1799: ‘I am laid by in a corner as if I did not Exist’. This copy was hand-coloured by Blake or by Catherine Blake. (Label text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827). 'The Christ Child Asleep on the Cross' 1799-1800 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Christ Child Asleep on the Cross (installation view)
1799-1800
Tempera on canvas Lent by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799 (installation view) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Christ Blessing the Little Children (installation views)
1799
Tempera on canvas
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Blessing the Little Children' 1799

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Christ Blessing the Little Children
1799
Tempera on canvas
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This painting is from of a group of fifty illustrations to the Bible commissioned by Blake’s patron, Thomas Butts. Its subject is taken from chapter 10 of St Mark’s Gospel. Christ, seated beneath a spreading tree, blesses children brought to him while he was preaching. To the left is one of his disciples, who tries to send the children away. Christ tells the disciples:

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God… Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb' c. 1799-1800 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb' c. 1799-1800 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb (installation views)
c. 1799-1800
Tempera on canvas mounted onto cardboard
Tate. Presented by Francis T. Palgrave 1884
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

The frame is original and may even have been chosen by Blake.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb' c. 1799-1800

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb
c. 1799-1800
Tempera on canvas mounted onto cardboard
Tate. Presented by Francis T. Palgrave 1884
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This tempera is very well preserved, mainly because it was painted on thin linen canvas, stuck onto thin cardboard. This is stiff enough to reduce the cracking that develops on flexible canvas. It also made it unnecessary to add the animal glue lining which has spoilt the opaque white effect of Blake’s chalk preparatory layer in many temperas. As a result, Blake’s delicate painted details can still be seen as he intended.

This is the only Blake tempera in this room in a frame dating from the time it was painted. Blake may have chosen the frame design himself.

Gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea (installation views)
c. 1805
Ink with watercolour over graphite on paper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea
c. 1805
Ink with watercolour over graphite on paper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, 1943
Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Number of the Beast is 666 c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Number of the Beast is 666' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Number of the Beast is 666 c. 1805 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Number of the Beast is 666 (installation views)
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Rosenbach, Philadelphia
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Number of the Beast is 666' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Number of the Beast is 666
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Rosenbach, Philadelphia
Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Satan in his Original Glory: 'Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee' c. 1805 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Satan in his Original Glory: ‘Thou wast Perfect till Iniquity was Found in Thee’ (installation views)
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This watercolour shows how such works have changed over time. There is a strip of much stronger blue colour at the bottom right edge, in an area which had been masked from the light in the past.

This watercolour shows Satan as he once was, a perfect part of God’s creation, before his fall from grace. His orb and sceptre symbolise his role as Prince of this World. It is also an extreme example of the damaging effects of over-exposure to light. The sky was originally an intense blue, now only visible at the lower right edge. The only colours which have survived unaltered are the vermilion red Blake used for the flesh, and red ochre in Satan’s wings. The paper has yellowed considerably. There is no evidence left of any yellow gamboge or pinkish red lakes.

Gallery label, September 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Christ Girding Himself with Strength' c. 1805 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Christ Girding Himself with Strength (installation view)
c. 1805
Chalk and watercolour over pencil on paper
280 × 325 mm
Bristol Culture: Bristol Museums & Art Gallery
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'David Delivered out of Many Waters' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
David Delivered out of Many Waters
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Presented by George Thomas Saul 1878
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

This work shows how Blake responded visually to textual sources. It is an illustration to Psalm 18, in which David (at the bottom of the image with his arms stretched wide) calls out to God for salvation from his enemies. Christ appears above, riding upon seven cherubim (angels), not one as in the text. Blake’s gentle, linear style, formal composition and free interpretation of a written source made him attractive to many modern artists. Paul Nash saw Blake as representing a British imaginative tradition.

Gallery label, August 2004

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) The Crucifixion: 'Behold Thy Mother' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Crucifixion: ‘Behold Thy Mother’
c. 1805
Ink and watercolour on paper
Tate. Presented by the executors of W. Graham Robertson through the Art Fund 1949
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

 

 

Blake often treated subjects from Jerusalem’s history. Christian thought is centred on Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary outside the city, when he died to redeem mankind. His cross, his resurrection and return to earth three days after his death are central to Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection of the Soldiers altarpiece at Sandham; sketches for this are shown in the display case to your left.

Spencer believed that the soldiers had a ‘perfect understanding’ of the sacrifice they had to make. This suggests that both Blake’s ‘Mental Fight’ to build the Jerusalem of peace in England, and the soldiers’ physical fight are equally valid.

Gallery label, July 2008

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Magdalene at the Sepulchre' c. 1805 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Magdalene at the Sepulchre' c. 1805 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Magdalene at the Sepulchre
c. 1805
Pen, ink and watercolour on paper
427 × 311 mm
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Angel Rolling away the Stone' c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Angel Rolling away the Stone
c. 1805
Watercolour on paper
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Morse gift

 

 

Two angels in white the one at the head, and the other at the feet / Matw. cn. 28th v. 2nd And below there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door. /17.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'The Angel Rolling away the Stone' (detail) c. 1805

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
The Angel Rolling away the Stone (detail)
c. 1805
Watercolour on paper
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Morse gift

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 1: ‘Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set) (installation views)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

John Milton’s epic poem describes Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden. Satan, the rebellious fallen angel, is a major character. Blake made these illustrations for the Rev. Joseph Thomas, following an introduction from Flaxman.

There are three sets: the Thomas set (1807), the Butts set (1808) and the incomplete Linnell set (1822).

 

The Thomas set

The paintings of the Thomas set are each approximately 10x 8.25 inches. They were commissioned by the Reverend Joseph Thomas at an unrecorded date, sometime before 1807. Although the sheets were trimmed at some time, obliterating the date from several, some still retain the date of 1807, establishing the year of their completion. Thomas’ grandson inherited them from his father, and sold them at Sotheby’s in 1872. By 1876 they were in the collection of Alfred Aspland, who by 1885 took them to Sotheby’s again, dispersing the set among several buyers. Henry Huntington reunited the works in 1914, and today they are still in the collection of the Huntington Library. (Wikipedia)

 

Reverend Joseph Thomas

The Rev. Joseph Thomas of Epsom, Surrey, was a clergyman and friend of Flaxman. Flaxman put him and Blake in touch, leading to a series of commissions. Thomas had married an heiress, Millicent Pankhurst. He held no church appointment and was free to pursue his artistic and scholarly interests.

Blake produced several series of watercolours for Thomas illustrating the poetry of the 17th-century writer John Milton, and Shakespeare’s plays. Thomas also purchased a few published works by Blake. (Wall text)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 1: 'Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 1: ‘Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 2: 'Satan, Sin, and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 2: ‘Satan, Sin, and Death: Satan Comes to the Gates of Hell’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 4: 'Satan Spying on Adam and Eve's Descent into Paradise' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 4: ‘Satan Spying on Adam and Eve’s Descent into Paradise’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 7: 'The Rout of the Rebel Angels' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 7: ‘The Rout of the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set) (installation view)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 7: 'The Rout of the Rebel Angels' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 7: ‘The Rout of the Rebel Angels’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 8: 'The Creation of Eve' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 8: 'The Creation of Eve' (Thomas set) 1807 (installation view detail)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 8: ‘The Creation of Eve’ (Thomas set) (installation views)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's 'Paradise Lost' Plate 8: 'The Creation of Eve' (Thomas set) 1807

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ Plate 8: ‘The Creation of Eve’ (Thomas set)
1807
12 designs on 12 sheets
Ink and watercolour on paper
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Google Art Project, Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 2: 'The Angels appearing to the Shepherds' 1809 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 2: 'The Angels appearing to the Shepherds' 1809 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s Hymn ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ Plate 2: ‘The Angels appearing to the Shepherds’
1809
6 designs on 6 sheets
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Blake was paid two pounds for each of these six designs by Thomas, twice what he was paid by Butts for the individual Bible watercolours. He made another set of these illustrations for Thomas Butts. Milton’s poem celebrates the birth of Christ, and the retreat of pagan and evil forces.

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 3: 'The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell' 1809 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 3: 'The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell' 1809 (installation view)

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) Illustrations to Milton's Hymn 'On the Morning of Christ's Nativity' Plate 3: 'The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell' 1809 (installation view)

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Illustrations to Milton’s Hymn ‘On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ Plate 3: ‘The Descent of Typhon and the Gods into Hell’
1809
6 designs on 6 sheets
Graphite, ink and watercolour on paper
The Whitworth, The University of Manchester

 

 

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Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7887 8888

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14
Jun
19

Exhibition and auction, photographs and text: ‘The Gay Day Archive 1974-83’ – photographs by Hank O’Neal; text by Alan Ginsberg

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 20th June 2019

Auction: 20th June, 2019 at 1:30 pm

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Daddies]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“Born gay and free”

I was born in 1958 and came out as a gay man in 1975, six short years after the Stonewall uprising, the nominal (the UK had decriminalised homosexuality in 1967) but official start of Gay Liberation around the world, especially in the United States of America. I survived the plague that hit in the early 1980s. A lot of my friend’s didn’t.

These fabulous photographs and lilting prose make wonderful bedfellows, shining a light on those very early years of outness, campness, empowerment and sexual and personal freedom pre HIV/AIDS. From Gay Daddies to Gay Teachers, from being nowhere (in sight) … to being everywhere. As Ginsberg eloquently proposes, “wearing their hearts on a banner for nothing but love.” Gay youth, dignity and equality, proud of my gay son whoever he may be.

There is such a sense of joy, happiness and love contained in these photographs. The two lads in “Untitled [summery mouths]” are redolent of the era. Cute as a button: platform shoes, tight flared jeans, keys hanging, hands clasped around, small waists, tight singlets, sultry curly hair. Disco love is in the air. I could have been one of these men, memories of those days, those halcyon 70s days.

There are heroes too. Marsha P. Johnson, performance artist, drag mother, transgender, gender nonconforming survival sex worker political activist human… probably murdered by thugs after the 1992 pride parade. And Harvey Milk, that assassinated visionary who became a martyr to the cause, marching in spirit with the crowd. The man carrying a wreath with his name – head down, black armband, gay rights t-shirt – is such a poignant image of the loss of a hero. And then Ginsberg’s text, “Harvey Milk died for your sins.” (He had initially written “our” but crossed it out).

That erasure is so important. I remember working at Channel 7 as a set painter in Melbourne in the late 1980s to pay for university. It was a typical male only workplace at the time, all “blokes”, and I was confronted one day by one of them about being openly gay. My response: I’m quite happy being how I am, it’s you that obviously has the problem. Why don’t you look at yourself first before you start attacking other people.

This is why it is so important that Ginsberg crossed out “our” and wrote “your” sins. LGBTQI people have not sinned. There just are. They have nothing to forgive themselves for. It is the prejudice of others that leads them to fight for dignity and equality. As one of the posters in the photographs says, “People should love one another regardless of race, religion, age or sex.” A men to that.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

PS. The exhibition of these photographs is only on for a few days. Please see them if you can.

The photographs and text are used under “fair use” for the purposes of freedom of speech, research, education and informed comment. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

A festive visual compilation by the NY-based photographer and author O’Neal of the parade signifying the Gay Liberation Movement. Pictured are an array of fun-loving and politically-motivated participants, several openly displaying affection. With photographs of the transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. Silver prints, various sizes, with most of the sheets 6×7 1/2 inches, 15.2×19 cm., or the reverse; each captioned by Ginsberg, and signed and dated by O’Neal on verso. 1974-83. AND – An additional group of approximately 165 photographs by O’Neal of the NYC parades, comprising 95 silver prints, various sizes but most 11 x 14 inches, 28 x 35.6 cm., and the reverse, 5 are signed and dated by O’Neal and contain Ginsberg’s captions; and 70 smaller silver prints, various sizes to 8 x 10 inches, 20.3 x 25.4 cm., and the reverse, a few with O’Neal’s hand stamp and notations and many are dated, in pencil, on verso; with duplicates and triplicates. 1974-83.

Estimate $70,000 – 100,000

Text for the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 30/05/2019

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WE ARE EVERYWHERE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WE ARE EVERYWHERE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

We all look pretty normal,
boy next door, handsome punk,
ad man’s delight, daughters of the
American Revolution.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Hikin’ Dykes]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Hikin’ Dykes] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Black white brown boy girl what idealism! –
wearing their
hearts on a banner for nothing but love

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY YOUTH 1969-1979]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY YOUTH 1969-1979] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

They Guy in the right looks like my daddy when
he was young (and alive).

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Dominant/Submissive Love]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Allen Ginsberg

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) was an American poet, philosopher and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism, and sexual repression and was known as embodying various aspects of this counterculture, such as his views on drugs, hostility to bureaucracy and openness to Eastern religions. He was one of many influential American writers of his time who were associated with the Beat Generation, including Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, “Howl” was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state. “Howl” reflected Ginsberg’s own sexuality and his relationships with a number of men, including Peter Orlovsky, his lifelong partner. Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that “Howl” was not obscene, adding, “Would there be any freedom of press or speech if one must reduce his vocabulary to vapid innocuous euphemisms?”

Ginsberg was a practicing Buddhist who studied Eastern religious disciplines extensively. He lived modestly, buying his clothing in second-hand stores and residing in downscale apartments in New York’s East Village. One of his most influential teachers was the Tibetan Buddhist Chögyam Trungpa, the founder of the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. At Trungpa’s urging, Ginsberg and poet Anne Waldman started The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics there in 1974.

Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem “September on Jessore Road”, calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg’s tireless persistence in protesting against “imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.”

His collection The Fall of America shared the annual U.S. National Book Award for Poetry in 1974. In 1979, he received the National Arts Club gold medal and was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Ginsberg was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995 for his book Cosmopolitan Greetings: Poems 1986-1992.

Full text “Alan Ginsberg,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Miss Rollerind]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Miss Rollerind] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Miss Rollerind, queen of late 70s
disco world universe drama, observed by
a (gay??) black man on the asphalt.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [COME! DIGNITY + EQUALITY]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [COME! DIGNITY + EQUALITY] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Come all over the sky, look up!

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ADOLPH ANITA JOE – The REAL ThREAtS to HUMANITY!]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ADOLPH ANITA JOE – The REAL ThREAtS to HUMANITY!] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What a pleasant conversation they are having under Hitler’s head,
guy with handsome bicep chest, holding the banner aloft
lightly, and the eye passed smiling inquirer.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY MEN’S HEALTH PROJECT]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GAY MEN’S HEALTH PROJECT] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

See anyone there you’d like to leave VD with?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Good tight dress]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Good tight dress] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Good tight dress, totally olive oil lady
from midtown, but the top’s a baseball
capped ruffian whistling at the whore

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I’m PROUD of my Gay Son]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I’m PROUD of my Gay Son] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Resolute parents that have gone thru the mill
& seen the skeleton in the closet & come out of the
gruesome fun house into the light – now they’re on their own feet
older + dignified; with house dresses + majestic walrus mustaches.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Look at her! Mad but actually handsome]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Look at her! Mad but actually handsome] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Look at her! Mad but actually handsome

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Cops with personal mustaches]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Cops with personal mustaches] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Cops with person mustaches, shun photogs, big tit guy in pancake suffering their own vision in the sun, and a thin socialist dyke

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Rights]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Gay Rights] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

You mean all that hair + teeth is gay?

 

 

Hank O’Neal

Hank O’Neal (born June 5, 1940) is an American music producer, author and photographer.

Photography

He began taking photographs while a teenager, and began to pursue the field seriously in 1969, when he bought a professional camera and began documenting recording sessions and jazz concerts that he was producing. Long before Berenice Abbott admonished him to always have a project, he undertook his first, in rural East Texas during 1970-1973. These photographs led to his first exhibition in September 1973, at The Open Mind Gallery in New York City.

In the 1970s he associated with a diverse group of photographers, notably Walker Evans, André Kertész and most importantly, Berenice Abbott, with whom he worked for the last 19 years of her life.

From 1970 to 1999 (in addition to undertaking many photographic projects), O’Neal also published numerous books related to photography. In 1999, at the urging of gallery director Evelyn Daitz, he had a major retrospective of his work to that point at The Witkin Gallery. Since that time, he has focused his activities toward photography, and continues to mount exhibitions yearly throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2003 his photographic career was summarised in a profile in The New York Times.

Books (text and illustrations)

  • The Eddie Condon Scrapbook of Jazz (St. Martin’s Press, 1973)
  • A Vision Shared (St. Martin’s Press, 1976)
  • Berenice Abbott – American Photographer (McGraw-Hill, 1982)
  • Life Is Painful, Nasty and Short … In My Case It Has Only Been Painful and Nasty – Djuna Barnes L 1978-81 (Paragon, 1990)
  • Charlie Parker (Filipacchi, 1995)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Filipacchi, 1997) French language edition
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Vanderbilt University Press, 2009) English language edition
  • Hank O’Neal Portraits 1971-2000 (Sordoni Art Gallery, 2000)
  • Billie & Lester in Oslo (A Play with Music, 2005)
  • Gay Day – The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade (Abrams, 2006)
  • Berenice Abbott (Steidl, 2008)
  • The Unknown Berenice Abbott – Steidl (October 15, 2013)
  • A Vision Shared – 40th Anniversary Edition – Steidl (December 1, 2016)
  • Berenice Abbott – The Paris Portraits – Steidl (November 22, 2016)

Books (photographs only)

  • Allegra Kent’s Water Beauty Book (St Martin’s Press, 1976)
  • All the King’s Men (Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • XCIA’s Street Art Project: The First Four Decades (Siman Media Works, 2012)

Portfolios

  • Berenice Abbott – Portraits In Palladium (Text Only, Commerce Graphics/ Lunn Limited, 1990)
  • Hank O’Neal – Photographs (Text and 12 gravure prints), Limited Editions Club, 1990)
  • The Ghosts of Harlem (Text and 12 photographs), Glenside Press, 2007)

Text from “Hank O’Neal,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [MY SON IS GAY AND THAT’S OK]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [MY SON IS GAY AND THAT’S OK] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

She’s an old anarchist from the
30’s. She read Marcel Proust in the
slums of Barcelona. She used to be a movie
Star in Berlin in 1923. Now she lives
in Queens in disguise as a typical american
mother.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GOD is GAY]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [GOD is GAY] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

According to Barbelo Gnostic theory,
God reflected on himself (or herself) & thus shone Sophia,
the First Word-thought, who thereat made sex
with herself and birthed the first Aeon,
Laldabaoth

 

 

Barbēlō refers to the first emanation of God in several forms of Gnostic cosmogony. Barbēlō is often depicted as a supreme female principle, the single passive antecedent of creation in its manifoldness. This figure is also variously referred to as ‘Mother-Father’ (hinting at her apparent androgyny), ‘First Human Being’, ‘The Triple Androgynous Name’, or ‘Eternal Aeon’. So prominent was her place amongst some Gnostics that some schools were designated as Barbeliotae, Barbēlō worshippers or Barbēlōgnostics.

Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός gnostikos, “having knowledge”, from γνῶσις gnōsis, knowledge) is a modern name for a variety of ancient religious ideas and systems, originating in Jewish Christian milieux in the first and second century AD. These systems believed that the material world is created by an emanation or ‘works’ of a lower god (demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the human body. This divine spark could be liberated by gnosis, spiritual knowledge acquired through direct experience. Some of the core teachings include the following:

  1. All matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good.
  2. There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons.
  3. The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit (the Demiurge).
  4. Gnosticism does not deal with “sin,” only ignorance.
  5. To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis (knowledge).

Laldabaoth is the demiurge (a heavenly being, subordinate to the Supreme Being, that is considered to be the controller of the material world and antagonistic to all that is purely spiritual) from Gnostic Christianity.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [a big crowd]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [a big crowd] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

a big crowd of boys + girls + …? – but
that tall girl looks worried, doesn’t she have a baloon?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [STONEWALL CHORALE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [STONEWALL CHORALE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Masculine & Feminine Sopranos!
marching on the Stone
floor on Manhattan, & pl…? Life

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WHERE IS your HUSBAND TONIGHT?]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [WHERE IS your HUSBAND TONIGHT?] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What pretty wives!
are they photocopies of men?
do they smoke cigars in secret?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [singing to skyscrapers]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [singing to skyscrapers] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

They’ve been meeting in secret + public
for years, & now sing to skyscrapers.

 

 

Today, at least a million spectators line the Pride parade route along Fifth Avenue. But, in its earliest days, the celebration was a much smaller event characterised by NY-style high energy, pithy signage, raucous crowd chants, extensive cruising and great music (remember disco?). Most of O’Neal’s photographs focused on NY’s West Village or Christopher Street, the epicenter of gaydom. A range of sub-cultures associated with the LGBTQ+ community are depicted: young and longhaired post-hippies, bare-chested muscle men, drag queens, fairies, leather-ites, Gay Daddies, protestors, pastors, parents of gays and the hikin’ dykes.

Some participants hold placards, including those protesting Anita Bryant, the once popular singer, who emerged as an strident anti-gay crusader in the late 1970s and teamed up with the divisive evangelical figure Jerry Falwell. A banner for the Gay Men’s Health Project is a harbinger of the tragic era to come.

Ginsberg first saw the photographs in 1982 and, according to O’Neal, was inspired to add his distinctive captions to the backs of the prints. His brief handwritten notes, which often reflect personal or historic observations, strike a wonderful tone. A caption that accompanies a picture of a group of men holding the banner WE ARE EVERYWHERE reads, “We all look pretty normal, boy next door, handsome punk, ad man’s delight, daughters of the American Revolution.” A shot depicting two men dressed in ancient Roman costume reads, “Clark Gable and Nero on a date, smiling for the 1920s Hollywood photogs.” His lengthy caption for the Johnson print (featured on the catalog cover) reads: “If I keep dressing up like this I’ll save the world from nuclear apocalypse. But will anyone love me for it? I’ll save the world anyway I know that looks good.” And still others honour the courageous and brave: one participant holds a wreath bearing the name Harvey Milk; Ginsberg wrote, “Harvey Milk died for your sins.” (He had initially written “our” but crossed it out).

O’Neal’s photographs were reproduced in the book, Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade, 1974-1983 (Abrams, 2006), with a Preface by William Burroughs. Interestingly during this same period Ginsberg had revisited his own Beat-era photographs, which were shot in the 1950s and processed at a local drugstore. He developed a unique hybrid picture-text style, adding detailed, handwritten mini-narratives to the lower margins of the prints, which captured his vivid, visual memories.

Text for the Swann Auction Galleries website [Online] Cited 30/05/2019

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [HARVEY MILK]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [HARVEY MILK] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Harvey Milk died for your sins

 

 

Harvey Milk

Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Although he was the most pro-LGBT politician in the United States at the time, politics and activism were not his early interests; he was neither open about his sexuality nor civically active until he was 40, after his experiences in the counterculture movement of the 1960s.

In 1972, Milk moved from New York City to the Castro District of San Francisco amid a migration of gay and bisexual men. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighbourhood to promote his interests and unsuccessfully ran three times for political office. Milk’s theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity, and in 1977 he won a seat as a city supervisor. His election was made possible by a key component of a shift in San Francisco politics.

Milk served almost eleven months in office, during which he sponsored a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. The Supervisors passed the bill by a vote of 11-1 and was signed into law by Mayor Moscone. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, who was another city supervisor. White had recently resigned to pursue a private business enterprise, but that endeavour eventually failed and he sought to get his old job back. White was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, which was later reduced to five years. He was released in 1983 and committed suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation two years later.

Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.” Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Extract from “Harvey Milk,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Blacks are most truthful]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Blacks are most truthful] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Blacks are most truthful,
it all goes back to
african religious ?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Judy Garland]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Judy Garland] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Judy Garland’s got big-veined
fists & activist boyfriends singing

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [PEOPLE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [PEOPLE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Well I’ll take 2 of these + 3 of those.
How old did you say you were?
Does that mean I have to sleep with 90 year old girls?

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [summery mouths]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [summery mouths] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Young meat Catholes (?)
appreciating each other’s
summery mouths

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA SLEEPS WITH BIG BUSINESS]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA SLEEPS WITH BIG BUSINESS] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Anita O’Day is still singing.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA DEAR SHOVE IT]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [ANITA DEAR SHOVE IT] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

I’ll bet Anita had affairs in
high school with her girlfriends.
Pretty Girl.

 

 

Anita Bryant

Anita Jane Bryant (born March 25, 1940) is an American singer and political activist. …

In the 1970s, Bryant became known as an outspoken opponent of gay rights in the US. In 1977, she ran the “Save Our Children” campaign to repeal a local ordinance in Dade County, Florida which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Her involvement with the campaign was condemned by gay rights activists. They were assisted by many other prominent figures in music, film, and television, and retaliated by boycotting the orange juice which she had promoted. This, as well as her later divorce, damaged her financially.

Victory and defeat

On June 7, 1977, Bryant’s campaign led to a repeal of the anti-discrimination ordinance by a margin of 69 to 31 percent. However, the success of Bryant’s campaign galvanised her opponents, and the gay community retaliated against her by organising a boycott of orange juice. Gay bars all over North America stopped serving screwdrivers and replaced them with the “Anita Bryant Cocktail”, which was made with vodka and apple juice. Sales and proceeds went to gay rights activists to help fund their fight against Bryant and her campaign.

In 1977, Florida legislators approved a measure prohibiting gay adoption.The ban was overturned more than 30 years later when, on November 25, 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy S. Lederman declared it unconstitutional.

Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances, including campaigns in St. Paul, Minnesota; Wichita, Kansas; and Eugene, Oregon. In 1978, her success led to the Briggs Initiative in California, which would have made pro-gay statements regarding homosexual people or homosexuality by any public school employee cause for dismissal. Grassroots liberal organisations, chiefly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, organised to defeat the initiative. Days before the election, the California Democratic Party opposed the proposed legislation. President Jimmy Carter, governor Jerry Brown, former president Gerald Ford, and former governor Ronald Reagan – then planning a run for the presidency – all voiced opposition to the initiative, and it ultimately suffered a massive defeat at the polls.

In 1998, Dade County repudiated Bryant’s successful campaign of 20 years earlier and reauthorised an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by a seven-to-six vote. In 2002, a ballot initiative to repeal the 1998 law, called Amendment 14, was voted down by 56 percent of the voters. The Florida statute forbidding gay adoption was upheld in 2004 by a federal appellate court against a constitutional challenge but was overturned by a Miami-Dade circuit court in November 2008.

Bryant became one of the first persons to be publicly “pied” as a political act (in her case, on television), in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 14, 1977. Bryant quipped “At least it’s a fruit pie,” making a pun on the derogatory term of “fruit” for a gay man. While covered in pie, she began to pray to God to forgive the activist “for his deviant lifestyle” before bursting into tears as the cameras continued rolling. Bryant’s husband said that he would not retaliate, but followed the protesters outside and threw a pie at them. By this time, gay activists ensured that the boycott on Florida orange juice had become more prominent and it was supported by many celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Paul Williams, Dick Clark (Bryant had made several appearances on his shows, especially his namesake television show), Vincent Price (he joked in a television interview that Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance referred to her), John Waters, Carroll O’Connor, Linda Lavin, Mary Tyler Moore, Charles Schulz, Billie Jean King, and Jane Fonda. In 1978, Bryant and Bob Green told the story of their campaign in the book At Any Cost. The gay community continued to regard Bryant’s name as synonymous with bigotry and homophobia.

Extract from “Anita Bryant,” on the Wikipedia website

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I deserve a cute boy’s kiss]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [I deserve a Cute boy’s kiss] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

I deserve a Cute
boy’s kiss for this truthful hat. And he’s
so sensitive, look at that
tiny white dog!

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [BORN GAY AND FREE]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [BORN GAY AND FREE] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

What a pretty mother! Brave
handsome courageous + true.

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Marsha P. Johnson]
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

Hank O'Neal 'The Gay Day Archive' 1974-83

 

Hank O’Neal (American, b. 1940) (photographer)
Alan Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997) (writer)
Untitled [Marsha P. Johnson] (verso)
1974-83
From The Gay Day Archive
Gelatin silver print

 

If I keep dressing up like this
I’ll save the world from
Nuclear Apocalypse. But will anyone
love me for it? I’ll save the world
anyway. I know what looks good.

 

 

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992) was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen. Known as an outspoken advocate for gay rights, Johnson was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969. A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, Johnson co-founded the gay and transvestite advocacy organisation S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), alongside close friend Sylvia Rivera. A popular figure in New York City’s gay and art scene, Johnson modelled for Andy Warhol, and performed onstage with the drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches. Known for decades as a welcoming presence in the streets of Greenwich Village, Johnson was known as the “mayor of Christopher Street”. From 1987 through 1992, Johnson was an AIDS activist with ACT UP.

 

Performance work and identity

Johnson initially called herself “Black Marsha” but later decided on “Marsha P. Johnson” as her drag queen name, getting Johnson from the restaurant Howard Johnson’s on 42nd Street. She said that the P stood for “pay it no mind” and used the phrase sarcastically when questioned about her gender, saying “it stands for pay it no mind”. She said the phrase once to a judge, who was humoured by it and released her. Johnson variably identified herself as gay, as a transvestite, and as a queen (referring to drag queen). According to Susan Stryker, a professor of human gender and sexuality studies at the University of Arizona, Johnson’s gender expression may be called gender non-conforming in absence of Johnson’s use of transgender, which was not used broadly during her lifetime.

Johnson said her style of drag was not serious (or “high drag”) because she could not afford to purchase clothing from expensive stores. She received leftover flowers after sleeping under tables used for sorting flowers in the Flower District of Manhattan, and was known for placing flowers in her hair. Johnson was tall, slender and often dressed in flowing robes and shiny dresses, red plastic high heels, and bright wigs, which tended to draw attention.

Johnson sang and performed as a member of J. Camicias’ international, NYC-based, drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches, from 1972 through to shows in the 1990s. When The Cockettes, a similar drag troupe from San Francisco, formed an East Coast troupe, The Angels of Light, Johnson was also asked to perform with them. In 1973, Johnson performed the role of “The Gypsy Queen” in the Angels’ production, “The Enchanted Miracle”, about the Comet Kohoutek. In 1975, Johnson was photographed by famed artist Andy Warhol, as part of a “Ladies and Gentlemen” series of Polaroids. In 1990, Johnson performed with The Hot Peaches in London. Now an AIDS activist, Johnson also appears in The Hot Peaches production The Heat in 1990, singing the song “Love” while wearing an ACT UP, “Silence = Death” button.

 

Stonewall uprising and other activism

Johnson said she was one of the first drag queens to go to the Stonewall Inn, after they began allowing women and drag queens inside; it was previously a bar for only gay men. On the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall uprising occurred. While the first two nights of rioting were the most intense, the clashes with police would result in a series of spontaneous demonstrations and marches through the gay neighbourhoods of Greenwich Village for roughly a week afterwards.

Johnson has been named, along with Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona, by a number of the Stonewall veterans interviewed by David Carter in his book, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, as being “three individuals known to have been in the vanguard” of the pushback against the police at the uprising. Johnson denied she had started the uprising, stating in 1987 that she had arrived at around “2:00 [that morning]”, and that “the riots had already started” when she arrived and that the Stonewall building “was on fire” after cops set it on fire. The riots reportedly started at around 1:20 that morning after Stormé DeLarverie fought back against the police officer who attempted to arrest her that night.

Carter writes that Robin Souza had reported that fellow Stonewall veterans and gay activists such as Morty Manford and Marty Robinson had told Souza that on the first night, Johnson “threw a shot glass at a mirror in the torched bar screaming, ‘I got my civil rights'”. Souza told the Gay Activists Alliance shortly afterwards that it “was the shot glass that was heard around the world”. Carter, however, concluded that Robinson had given several different accounts of the night and in none of the accounts were Johnson’s name brought up, possibly in fear that if he publicly credited the uprising to Johnson due to her well-known mental state and gender nonconforming, then Stonewall, and indirectly the gay liberation movement, “could have been used effectively by the movement’s opponents”. The alleged “shot glass” incident has also been heavily disputed. Prior to Carter’s book, it was claimed Johnson had “thrown a brick” at a police officer, an account that was never verified. Johnson also claimed herself that she was not at the Stonewall Inn when the rioting broke out but instead had heard about it and went to get Sylvia Rivera who was at a park uptown sleeping on a bench to tell her about it. However, many have corroborated that on the second night, Johnson climbed up a lamppost and dropped a bag with a brick in it down on a cop car, shattering the windshield.

Following the Stonewall uprising, Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front and participated in the first Christopher Street Liberation Pride rally on the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion in June 1970. One of Johnson’s most notable direct actions occurred in August 1970 when she and fellow GLF members staged a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall at New York University after administrators canceled a dance when they found out was sponsored by gay organisations. Shortly after that, she and close friend Sylvia Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organisation (initially titled Street Transvestites Actual Revolutionaries). The two of them became a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. In 1973, Johnson and Rivera were banned from participating in the gay pride parade by the gay and lesbian committee who were administering the event stating they “weren’t gonna allow drag queens” at their marches claiming they were “giving them a bad name”. Their response was to march defiantly ahead of the parade. During a gay rights rally at New York City Hall in the early ’70s, photographed by Diana Davies, a reporter asked Johnson why the group was demonstrating, Johnson shouted into the microphone, “Darling, I want my gay rights now!”

During another incident around this time, which landed Johnson in court, she was confronted by police officers for hustling in New York, and when they went to apprehend her, she hit them with her handbag, which contained two bricks. When Johnson was asked by the judge why she was hustling, Johnson explained she was trying to secure enough money for her husband’s tombstone. During a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in the United States, the judge asked her what “happened to this alleged husband”, Johnson responded, “Pigs killed him”. Initially sentenced to 90 days in prison for the assault, Johnson’s lawyer eventually convinced the judge to send her to Bellevue instead.

With Rivera, Johnson established the STAR House, a shelter for gay and trans street kids in 1972, and paid the rent for it with money they made themselves as sex workers. While the House was not focused on performance, Marsha was a “drag mother” of STAR House, in the longstanding tradition of chosen family in the Black and Latino LGBT community. Johnson worked to provide food, clothing, emotional support and a sense of family for the young drag queens, trans women, gender nonconformists and other gay street kids living on the Christopher Street docks or in their house on the Lower East Side of New York.

In the 1980s Johnson continued her street activism as a respected organiser and marshal with ACT UP. In 1992, when George Segal’s Stonewall memorial was moved to Christopher Street from Ohio to recognise the gay liberation movement, Johnson commented, “How many people have died for these two little statues to be put in the park to recognise gay people? How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together.

Extract from “Marsha P. Johnson,” on the Wikipedia website

 

 

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Phone: (212) 254-4710

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27
Sep
12

Text: ‘The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’ at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Exhibition dates: 25th May – 30th September 2012

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“Perfection means you don’t question anything about the photograph. There are certain pictures I’ve taken in which you really can’t move that leaf or that hand. It’s where it should be, and you can’t say it could have been there. There is nothing to question as in a great painting. I often have trouble with contemporary art because I find it’s not perfect. It doesn’t have to be anatomically correct to be perfect either. A Picasso portrait is perfect. It’s just not questionable. In the best of my pictures, there’s nothing to question – it’s just there.”

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Robert Mapplethorpe

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Written in 1996 (but never published until now), this is one of my earliest pieces of research and writing. While it is somewhat idealistic in many ways, hopefully this piece still has some relevance for the reader for there are important ideas contained within the text.

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The defining of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body

Photography has portrayed the Apollonian and Dionysian ideals of the body throughout its history, but has never fully explored the theoretical implications and consequences of this pairing. Our presentation of the body says precise things about the society in which we live, the degree of our integration within that society and the controls which society exerts over the innerman.1 My research concentrated on how images of the male body, as a representation of the Self/Other split, have been affected by these ideals.

We can clearly define the Apollonian (beauty, perfection, obsession, narcissism, voyeurism, idols, fascism, frigid, constraint, oppression, the defined, the personalised, an aggression of the eye linked to greed and desire) and Dionysian (ecstasy, eroticism, hysteria, energy, anarchy, promiscuity, death, emotion, bodily substances and the universal). In reality the boundaries between these ideals are more ambiguous.

For example, in the work of the American photographer Fred Holland Day we see allegorical myths portrayed by beautiful youths, many of which to modern eyes have a powerful homoerotic quality.

“In close proximity to eroticism associated with homosocial bonding and sexuality, these pictures were infused with desire and anxiety, repulsion and attraction … Day’s male nudes possess the aesthetic trappings of refined art and high culture … but also contain a frisson of impending sexual release and bodily pleasure, to say nothing of their sado-erotic inflection and paedophilic associations.”2

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According to some critics,3 societies acceptance of photographs of Apollonian or Orphic (Dionysian) youths [2 different critical views]4 in that era (the fin de siecle of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century), was based on what was seen as their chaste, idyllic nature. They represented ‘ephebes’ – males who were between boy and man – who posed no threat to the patriarchal status quo. To other critics5 these ‘ephebes’ present a challenge to the construction of heterosexual/ homosexual identity along gender lines, echoing Foucault’s thoughts on the imprisoning nature of categories of sexual identity.6

For Day, physical beauty was the testimony of a transcendent spirit.7 His portraits tried to uncover the true spirit of his subjects, revealing what was hidden behind the mask of e(x)ternal beauty. But what was being revealed? Was it the subject’s own spiritual integrity, his true self, or a false self as directed by the photographer whose instructions he was enacting? Was it F. Holland Day’s erotic fantasies the subject was acting out, or was it a perception of his own identity or a combination of both? These works show Day as both director and collaborator, his idols equally unattainable and available, resilient and vulnerable. In portraying this beauty, was Day embracing a seductive utopia in which this Apollonian beauty leads away from the very Dionysian spirit he was trying to engage with?

At around the same time a Prussian named Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden was also taking photographs of scantily clad local peasant youths, based on Arcadian themes. “In von Gloeden’s perception of the world human figures are not in themselves merely erotic, but become aesthetic objects … a setting in which beautiful things are the content of the image.”8

While this may be true, the focus of the images is always on what Von Gloeden desired, his full frontal nudes drawing our eyes to the locus of sexual desire, the penis. Von Gloeden’s “transformation of ordinary working class boys into the very image of antique legend,”9 the conjunction of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, blurs the distinctions between the two. Both Day and Von Gloeden were wealthy, educated, influential men who had a desire for working class boys. Did they help create an erotic tension across class lines and effect a particular Camp taste when society at that time (the first decade of the 20th century) was beginning to define areas of sexual categorisation that would label gay men perverts and degenerates? Even today, comparing contemporary critical analysis of Von Gloeden’s photographs can produce vastly differing conceptualisations as to the evidence of sexual overtones:

“The distinction between form and sexual attractiveness is tenuously maintained and the expression of the subjects’ face suggests a lofty remoteness rather than sexual availability or provocativeness.”10

“Von Gloeden’s pictures are fairly specific in depicting erotically based encounters between Mediterranean males. In many of them, the gazes shared between young men or the suggestive relationships of figure to figure hint at activities that might take place beyond the cameras range.”11

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For Day and Von Gloeden the need to possess something beautiful, something that was taboo, compensated both photographers for something they had lost – their youth. This transfers their death onto the object of their possession; the beautiful youths ‘captured’ in their photographs. Georges Bataille links eroticism to the inner life of man, the true self, and the eroticism of these photographs opens the way to a viewing of death and allows the photographer the power to look death in the face. According to Bataille, possession of something beautiful negates our need to die because we have objectified our need in someone else.12

What we know and understand about the world is partially built on images that are recorded, interpreted and imprinted in our brains as the result of the experiences we encounter throughout our lives. Our memory is forever fragmenting our remembered reality. It provides us with a point of view of the reality of the world in which we live and on which our identities are formed. When we look at a photograph we (sub)consciously bring all of our social encultration, our hates, our desires and our spirit to bear on the definition of that photograph at the time of viewing (an each viewing can be different!). Inherently embedded in any photograph then, are all these Dionysian stirrings – of desire, of eroticism, of death and of memory. Even if the photograph is entirely Apollonian in content the definition of that photograph can be open to any possibility, by any body.

One photographer who sought to access, and have connection to, fundamental truths was the American photographer Minor White. Studying Zen Buddhism, Gurdjieff and astrology, White believed in the photographs’ connection to the subject he was photographing and the subject’s connection back via the camera to the photographer forming a holistic circle.13 When, in meditation, this connection was open he would then expose the negative in the camera hopeful of a “revelation” of spirit in the subsequent photograph. White feared public exposure as a homosexual and struggled for years to resist the shame and disgust he felt over his sexual desires. Very few of his male portraits were exhibited during his lifetime, his Dionysian urgings difficult to reconcile with or assimilate into his images of peace and serenity, images that urged unity of self and spirit, of yin and yang. In the East yin/yang is both/and, being transformable and interpenetrating whilst in the West black/white is either/or not both, being exclusive and non-interactive. But who is to say what is ugly or what is beautiful? What is black or what is white?

In the work of the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, we can see the formalised classical aesthetic of beauty combined with content which many people are repelled by (pornography, sexuality, violence, power) creating work which is both Apollonian and Dionysian.14 Peoples’ disgust at the content of some of Mapplethorpe’s images is an Apollonian response, an aesthetic judgement, a backing away from a connection to ‘nature’, meaning ‘that which is born’. Mapplethorpe said, “I’ve done everything I show in my photographs,”15 revealing a connection to an inner self, regardless of whether he intended to shock. Those seeking suppression of Mapplethorpe’s photographs, mainly conservative elements of society, cite the denigration of moral values as the main reason for their attacks. However Mapplethorpe’s S&M photographs sought to re-present the identity of a small subculture of the gay community that exists within the general community and by naming this subculture he sought to document and validate its existence. The photograph can and does lie but here was the ‘truth’ of these Dionysian experiences, which conservative bigots could not deny – that they exist.

In the NEA/Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center controversy surrounding Mapplethorpe16 his work was defended on aesthetic grounds, not on the grounds of homoerotic content, of freedom of expression or artistic freedom. The classical Apollonian form of his images was emphasised. As one juror put it, “Going in, I would never have said the pictures have artistic value. Learning as we did about art, I and everyone else thought they did have some value. We are learning about something ugly and harsh in society.”17 Ugly and harsh. To some people in the world S&M scenes are perfectly natural and beautiful and can lead to the most transcendent experience that a human being can ever have in their life. Who is to decide for the individual his or her freedom to choose?

This Apollonian fear of the Dionysian ‘Other’, the emotional chaotic self, was found to involve fear of that which is potentially the ‘same as’ – two sides of the same coin. This fear of ‘the same’, or of the proximity of the same, or of the threat of the same, can lead to violence, homophobia, racism and bigotry. Mapping out sexual identities’ toleration of difference, which is ‘the same as’, recognises that there are many different ways of being, and many truths in the world.

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In conclusion I have determined that the definition of Apollonian and Dionysian ideals in images of the male body are at best ambiguous and open to redefinition and reinterpretation. The multiplicity of readings that can be attached to images of the male body, in different eras, by different people illustrates the very problematic theoretical area these images inhabit. As we seek to ‘name’, to categorise, to nullify the ‘Other’ as a Dionysian connection to earth and nature, it may cause an alienated ‘Self’ to revolt against Apollonian powers of control in order to break down the lived distance that divides people. This creates situations/ encounters/ experiences that are regarded as transgressive and a threat to the hegemonic fabric of society.

But do these experiences offer an alternative path for the evolution of the human race? Not the replacing of one patriarchal, capitalist system with another based on ecstatic spiritual consciousness but perhaps a more level playing field, one based on a horizontal consciousness (a balance between Apollonian and Dionysian), a ‘knowing’ and understanding, a respect for our self and others. My claim as an’Other’ is that these perceived transgressions, not just the binary either/or, may ultimately free human beings and allow them to experience life and grow. Where nothing is named, everything is possible.

Marcus Bunyan 1996

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Many thankx to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1975
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Derrick Cross
1983
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Two Tulips
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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“A renowned figure of contemporary photography, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was in his element in a domain defined by conventions and revolt, classicism and non-conformist cultures, where each picture serves as a document of hard-fought identities, as well as inciting and recording social and artistic debates. The Ludwig Museum Budapest features nearly two hundred works by Robert Mapplethorpe, from his early Polaroid photos to pieces from his final years. Realised in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation New York, this large-scale exhibition is presented to a Hungarian audience for the first time.

Initially, Mapplethorpe had no intention of becoming a photographer. His early collages and altar-like installations incorporated found elements including photos from magazines. Seeking to give these works a more personal and perfect touch, he decided to shoot the photos himself. His major subjects were his immediate environment and personal desires: the alternative circles of the New York art scene, his identity as a homosexual, non-traditional forms of sexuality, and the communities organised around them. The New York of the seventies was a great melting pot of contiguous subcultures, sexual freedom, post-Pop and rock’n’roll. Mapplethorpe’s environment included Andy Warhol and his entourage from the Factory, the superstars of his films as well as the inhabitants of the legendary Chelsea Hotel, who inspired his art and became part of his audience.

His portraits of famous individuals and those longing for fame also positioned their photographer within their circle. He was a renowned artist seeking to establish relationships with people who stand out, one way or another, from the rest of society, without submitting himself to them. Posing for his camera were film stars, musicians, writers and visual artists, the celebrities and central figures of New York in the seventies and eighties, including pornographic film stars and body builders. He made engaging and elegant portraits attesting to his intense attention, humour, and ambition toward a sense of the monumental.

Mapplethorpe developed an increasingly committed and professional attitude to photography. His quest for the perfect image led him to classical compositions and subjects. While precision of forms and a quality of reserve were combined in his works, his intense attention to his models remained unchanged; he photographed torsos and floral still-lifes with the same cool professionalism. His nudes evoke classical Greek statues and Renaissance masterpieces, with their arrangement and sculptural approach to the body dating back to traditions that have existed for several hundred years. Such an incarnation of classical formalism, however, was juxtaposed with shocking new subjects and stark sexual fetishes, resulting in radical re-creations of the approach to tradition.

The perfect image called for the perfect body: his shots of black men, female body-builders and austere flowers seem to articulate his one and only vision, again and again. He almost always worked in the studio, most often in black and white, using increasingly defined tones. With unified backgrounds and balance of forms, his photos remove the subjects from their own realities to relocate them in the timeless, frozen space of the photograph. In terms of their statue-like beauty and rigorous composition of every detail, his pictures continue and renew the classical photographic tradition all at once. Such classical virtues, however, did not make these photos exempt from criticism: both his subject matter and their manner of presentation sparked controversy. Their sexual themes aroused unease, and criticism of the work failed to make a distinction between the statue-like beauty of body parts and torsos, the sexual stereotypes associated with black male bodies, and the objectification of the bodies.

Mapplethorpe’s works created a place for homosexual and S&M identities in the domain of high art, subverting conventions, transgressing unspoken social agreements and revealing prejudices, in line with the artist’s personal desires and self-definition. In the United States, during the eighties, in the first moments of horror in the face of AIDS, the condemnation of homosexuality and the undefined dread of the disease became entwined. Such developments stirred up the already intense controversies around Mapplethorpe’s photos, adding a new overtone to the voice of conservative protesters. (Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and he died in the spring of 1989 due to complications related to the disease).

The cultural-political debates of the so-called Culture Wars in the late 1980s and 1990s in the United States, fuelled the decision of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to cancel its leg of the travelling exhibition “The Perfect Moment,” which included several thought-provoking photos that the conservative right-wing had denounced as obscene and arrogant assaults on public taste. A long and heated debate was to follow, including both hysterical and absurd commentaries, triggering police actions and a trial against a subsequent venue, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati as well as its director. Though the museum and its director were eventually cleared of all charges, the case continued to shape the cultural-political landscape in the US, which partly concluded in a revision of the public funding of artworks and is still referred to today as an outstanding example of the methodology of censorship.”

Press release from the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Untitled
c. 1973
1987
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Lisa Lyon
1982
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ajitto
1981
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait
1988
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used with permission

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1. Blain, Robert. The Decorated Body. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979, p.5, Introduction

2. Crump, James. F. Holland Day- Suffering the Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.11

3. Foster, Alasdair. Behold The Man – The Male Nude In Photography. Edinburgh: Stills, 1989, p.9

4. Jussim, Estelle. Slave To Beauty- The Eccentric Life And Controversial Career of F. Holland Day, Photographer, Publisher, Aesthete. Boston: Godine, 1981, pp.175-176; Ellenzweig, Allan. The Homoerotic Photograph. New York: Columbia University, 1992, p. 59

5. Ellenzweig, p.59

6. Weeks, Jeffrey. Against Nature:  Essays on history, sexuality and identity. London: Rivers Osram Press, 1991, p.164

7. Day, F. Holland. “Is Photography An Art?” p.8, quoted in Crump, James. F. Holland Day – Suffering The Ideal. Santa Fe: Twin Palms, 1995, p.20

8. Ellenzweig, p.39

9. Leslie, Charles. Wilhelm von Gloeden, Photographer. New York: Soho Photographic, 1997, p.86

10. Dutton, Kenneth R. The Perfectible Body. London: Cassell, 1995, p. 95

11. Ellenzweig, p.43

12. Bataille, Georges. Death And Sensuality. New York: Walker And Company, 1962, p. 24

13. Bateson, Gregory. Steps To An Ecology Of Mind – Collected Essays On Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution And Epistemology. St. Albans: Paladin, 1973

14. Danto, Arthur C. Mapplethorpe – Playing With The Edge. Essay. London: Jonathon Cape, 1992, p.331

15. Interview with Robert Mapplethorpe quoted in Cooper, Emmanuel. The Sexual Perspective. London: Routledge, 1986, p. 286

16. Ellenzweig, p. 205, Footnote 1

17. Cembalest, Robin. “The Obscenity Trial: How They Voted To Acquit,” in Art News December 1990 89 (10): 141 quoted in Ellenzweig, p.208

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Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art
1095 Budapest  Komor Marcell Street 1
Hungary 06 1 555-3444

Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00-20.00
Closed on Mondays

Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: 'Sleep/Wound' 1995-96 *PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY - IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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