The analogy “Israel deliverd from Egypt is Art deliverd from Nature & Imitation” is about slavery and deliverance in relation to art. Blake is saying that an artist who imitates other artists or nature is enslaved. I think this print is as much about the reception of art as its creation because Blake wants us to recognise how much the former influences the later. He is responding to “The Laocoon” by defacing it to change what it shows and means. Blake makes it into a copy of another piece of art by titling it “יה & his two Sons Satan & Adam as they were copied from the Cherubim of Solomon’s Temple by three Rhodians & applied to Natural Fact, or History of Ilium.” This challenges the primacy of Classical art and the wisdom of taking it as the model to be imitated. In His ‘Discourses on Art” Sir Joshua Reynolds distinguished between nobler and baser walks or styles of painting, arguing that students who are unaware of the nobler forms can never create them (50-51).

I don’t think Blake is trying to topple Classical art from its pedestal to replace it with Hebrew art, as he labels the sculpture. By redefining the image he is thinking outside the politics of art and the art world, for which this image is “The Laocoon” and a model of artistic genius. Blake acknowledges art’s political power when he writes underneath his title “Art Degraded Imagination Denied War Governed the Nations.” For him, imagination is not something to be acquired through imitating what is defined as Great Art. He sees that as the antithesis of imagination, which is spiritual rather than material. He gave the image a more figurative meaning and at the same time included his additions in the image. Reynolds might say he deformed it, but that might have been the point because Blake believes that imagination should not be enslaved and artists instructed to strip away deformities in pursuit of a predefined artistic greatness.

Works Cited

Reynolds, Sir Joshua. Discourse III.” Discourses on Art. Ed. Wark. Huntington Lib., 1959. 41-53. Print.

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