A stunningly illustrated look at how Blake's radical vision influenced artists of the Beat generation and 1960s counterculture
In his own lifetime, William Blake (1757–1827) was a relatively unknown nonconventional artist with a strong political bent. William Blake and the Age of Aquarius is a beautifully illustrated look at how, some two hundred years after his birth, the antiestablishment values embodied in Blake’s art and poetry became a model for artists of the American counterculture.
This book provides new insights into the politics and protests of Blake’s own lifetime, and the generation of artists who revived and reimagined his work in the mid-1940s through 1970, or what might be called the “long sixties.” Contributors explore Blake’s outsider status in Georgian England and how his individualistic vision spoke to members of the Beat Generation, hippies, radical poets and writers, and other voices of the counterculture. Among the artists, musicians, and writers who looked to Blake were such diverse figures as Diane Arbus, Jay DeFeo, the Doors, Sam Francis, Allen Ginsberg, Jess, Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhardt, Charles Seliger, Maurice Sendak, Robert Smithson, Clyfford Still, and many others. This book also explores visual cultures around such galvanizing moments of the 1960s as Woodstock and the Summer of Love.
William Blake and the Age of Aquarius shows how Blake’s myths, visions, and radicalism found new life among American artists who valued individualism and creativity, explored expanded consciousness, and celebrated youth, peace, and the power of love in a turbulent age.
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University
September 23, 2017–March 11, 2018
Stephen F. Eisenman is professor of art history at Northwestern University. Mark Crosby is assistant professor of English at Kansas State University. Elizabeth Ferrell is assistant professor of art history at Arcadia University. Jacob Henry Leveton is a PhD candidate in art history at Northwestern. W.J.T. Mitchell is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. John P. Murphy is research associate in the Department of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.
"A timely book that provides fresh perspective on the art of the 1960s. Much as it did for the artists and activists of the Beat and hippie generations, Blake's visionary antiestablishment thought and work can perhaps again offer a reference point for those today who are struggling to produce an artistic response appropriate to the new century's demands."--Michael Archer, author of Art Since 1960
"This is a jewel of a book. It revisits the searing and soaring works of Blake through their reincarnation in the 1960s counterculture, deepening the understanding of both."--Daniel Herwitz, author of The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption
Published in association with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University