The Social Hell of William Blake: the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Blake's Illustrations of Dante's Inferno by Myat Aung

Dublin Core

Title

The Social Hell of William Blake: the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Blake's Illustrations of Dante's Inferno by Myat Aung

Subject

Art

Description

In 1824 CE, William Blake was commissioned to illustrate the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri. Amongst 102 illustrations, Blake devoted two thirds to the Inferno. Within the scholarship on Blake, the prevailing analysis of his illustrations shows his treatment of religious imagery. Such treatment does not emphasize how Blake’s illustrations reflect the social changes in nineteenth-century London. I thus examine Blake’s Inferno and articulate how it conveys ideas not present in the original text. My research revolves around Dante’s allegory and how Blake would have interpreted the work in his day. When Blake started painting the Inferno, the Industrial Revolution had already begun. As London became highly urbanized, factories were built with the promise of better commodities. Concurrently, transportation, communication, and access to mechanized goods improved. Amidst advances in science and industry, London became a crowded, unsanitary place covered in smoke, where workers suffered from diseases and low wages due to coal burning and laissez-faire capitalism. Because over five hundred years separated Dante from Blake, I ask questions about how Dante’s text informed Blake’s thinking. What was Blake’s perspective on daily life in London? What type of imagery in Blake’s drawings deviated from the descriptions in the text? How did Blake approach the Inferno in the nineteenth century? To answer these questions, I identify four themes that Blake used in his illustrations to reimagine Dante’s Hell. I ultimately argue that William Blake’s illustrations of the Inferno are his social commentary on the status quo of London during the Industrial Revolution.

Creator

Aung, Myat

Source

Senior Showcase Oral presentation

Publisher

Ripon College

Date

April 19, 2016

Rights

The author reserves all rights.

Format

pdf

Identifier

Majors: Art History, Classical Studies
ART 570 - Senior Seminar in Art

Files

MyatAungArtHistorySeniorShowcase.pdf

Tags

Citation

Aung, Myat, “The Social Hell of William Blake: the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Blake's Illustrations of Dante's Inferno by Myat Aung,” Senior Showcase Digital Collection, accessed January 27, 2023, https://rcseniorshowcase.omeka.net/items/show/50.

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