“I will free from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt” Exodus 6:6

William Blake’s analogy relies on the biblical context that Israel was delivered to freedom from the oppressive enslaving grip of Egypt. The second half of the encryption in Blake’s “The Lagoon” compares then art being delivered from something similar: “is art deliverd from Nature and Imitation”. Putting into context that the Israelites were rejecting Egypt and escaping it, then the second part of the expression implies that Blake rejects the notion of art being confined solely to nature and verisimilitude features that only seek to imitate the real world instead of morphing it into something else.

In a way, art that relies solely on these two features is what Egypt was to the Israelites: a slavery of mind, soul, and body. Reynold’s expresses “the mechanic and ornamental arts must sacrifice to fashion, she must be entirely excluded from the Art of Painting; the painter must never mistake this capricious changeling for the genuine offspring of nature; he must disregard all local and temporary ornaments, and look only on those general habits which are every where and always the same” (48). Reynold’s statement that an artist must accept only the actual truth that never changes is Alexandrian and similar to Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas which advises poets to rise to “transcendental truths, which will always be the same” (as stated in the footnote). Therefore, Blake’s attitude towards Sir Joshua Reynold’s definition of artistic genius are completely dismissive, and the complete opposite. He even goes as far as saying that Reynold’s and artists like him are “hired by Satan” (463) to destroy art. Perhaps his passion is so emboldened in this topic because of Blake’s deep understanding that his art was not viewed as “real art”, but merely as “craftsmanship”. Blake even expressed that greats like Michelangelo and Rafael knew the Venetian and that they acknowledged that following the rules would lead to the destruction of art itself.

William Blake expresses eloquently through the engraving his sentiments: The Eternal Body of Man is the Imagination

-Beyanira Bautista