Artibus et Historiae no. 6 (III)

1982, ISSN 0391-9064

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SEYMOUR HOWARD - William Blake: The Antique, Nudity and Nakedness. A Study in Idealism and Regression

Classical nudes were of course basic models for the Neo-Classic art of Blake's time, and their influence and that of their Renaissance and later imitations appears everywhere in his very eclectic production. However, conflicting attitudes toward complete nakedness (and eventually toward Classicism) characterize his art, which is full of both erotic and conservative symbolism. He variously presented nakedness with equanimity, evasiveness, exaggeration, or transformation. These several views of sexuality and his recurrent idealization of androgyny suggest that certain of his solutions resulted from adult and sometimes ambivalent reworkings of infantile material, as well as traditional and esoteric visual and literary prototypes. Several of his figure types (Apollo, Laocoon, Albion, Androgyne, Fire, Old Parr, and various female subjects) are discussed, with their proposed sources, as examples of his use of the nude as a motif and its meanings in his work.

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