William Blake Scholar to Present at SCC on October 30

Oct 26, 2017

Michael PhillipsJune 1793 was a time, like our own, of tensions between differing ideas about what governance should look like. The American Revolution was a decade past, but the French Revolution was only three years into a bloody conflict that would test the revolutionary ideas and ideals that gave birth to our own nation. In London, a commercial printer—and artist and poet and visionary—William Blake penned these lines:

“I say I shant live five years

and if I live one it will be a

Wonder”   

1793

Dr. Michael Phillips, an internationally known William Blake scholar, will pay a return visit to Somerset Community College Monday, October 30, 2017, to demonstrate Blake’s printing method and share his research on the poet. Dr. Phillips has searched through archives in both Britain and America to understand why Blake, at 36, was in fear for his life at a pivotal moment in history.

At 3 p.m., in SCC’s Strunk Learning Commons, Dr. Phillips will demonstrate Blake’s printing method. At 6:30 p.m., he will speak about Blake and the Terror of 1793. Both events are free and open to the public. A small exhibit of Blake materials will be on display at the Strunk Learning Commons, as well, from October 18 to November 1, 2017. The Strunk Learning Commons is located on the SCC Somerset North Campus at 808 Monticello Street in Somerset.

SCC Professor Wanda Fries said she hopes anyone interested in art, literature, politics, or history will take the opportunity to attend, especially students. Fries said Dr. Phillips is “at heart a very warm and approachable teacher,” and that the event is intended for a general, not specialized, audience. 

“When he was here in 2015, my technical students especially enjoyed the printing part of Michael’s demonstration,” said Fries. “He loved Somerset and is excited that this time his visit will coincide with the last Somernites Cruise weekend. He has a vintage 1932 Ford hot rod roadster like one he drove when he was young—maybe the only one in Scotland.”

For decades, Dr. Phillips focused his studies on understanding the techniques Blake used to produce “The Songs of Innocence and Experience” and other illuminated works. For his research, he began with a fragment of the one known surviving copper plate and studied original copies of Blake’s work in museums and university libraries all over the world to recreate Blake’s methods.              

Dr. Phillips taught at Oxford, University College London and Edinburgh University before joining the Interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York, where until 2004 he offered a post-graduate MA in English and History of Art entitled “William Blake and the Age of Revolution” and where he is now an Emeritus Fellow. He now lectures and gives Blake printmaking demonstrations internationally.

Dr. Phillips has curated major Blake exhibitions in London and New York at Tate Britain and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2000 and 2001; in Paris at the Petit Palais in 2009; and most recently at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, William Blake Apprentice & Master, an exhibit that included a full-scale reconstruction of Blake’s printmaking studio in the 1790s at No. 13 Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. The London Telegraph’s reviewer Richard Dormant called the Ashmolean exhibit “first rate,” stating, “The curator Michael Philips clearly lives and breathes the world of Blake. It is he who discovered the architectural plans for the house in Hercules Buildings in Lambeth where Blake lived during the most creatively fertile years of his life.” This is also the period Dr. Phillips will focus on in his talk at SCC.

For his work on Blake Dr. Phillips has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Yale Centre for British Art, British Library Centre for the Book, a British Academy Research Readership in the Humanities, Waynflete Lectureship, Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Medal of the Collège de France.

For more information about the event please email Wanda.Fries@kctcs.edu. Dr. Phillips’ webpage is http://www.williamblakeprints.co.uk/.