Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Brian John




This thesis explores the relationship between William Blake's pictorial style and the rational, empirical values that characterized the age in which he lived. Blake revolted against the systematization of art in eighteenth century England and rejected the scientific principles that supported linear perspective and the illusionist aesthetic. He held that visual art should produce conceptual images rather than emulate fallen, corporeal perception of the material world. This conviction came in response to the scientific reasoning that influenced art during the Enlightenment and threatened to turn artists into mechanical labourers governed by the laws of optics.

After examining the influence of science and mathematics on visual art in the Age of Reason, this paper focuses on Blake's repudiation of linear perspective. This study concludes with a discussion of compositional schemata in Blake's designs, modifying the interpretations offered in W.J.T. Mitchell's Blake's Composite Art and Stewart Crehan's Blake in Context. The observations put forward in this final chapter are supported by a detailed analysis of The Ancient of Days.

McMaster University Library

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