‘Pity’ by William Blake

Some paintings can etch themselves indelibly on your minds. They become a part of your subconscious.

Studying the paint-brush strokes, colour palettes, the artist’s life, his musings are important for understanding an art piece. But I prefer and try not to do it when I first set out to seek a painting I am seeing.

Something subliminally attracts me to a painting. An overall awe of beholding it. The effect it has on me and my current state of mind.

‘Pity’ by William Blake is one such artwork. The colours, the dream-like quality and the facial expression invoke pity and sadness in me. And Shakespeares’s words behind the painting’s inspiration adds to its melancholic charm, where Macbeth struggles with his vaulting ambition.


“He’s here in double trust;
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on the other.”

-Macbeth, Act I, Scene VII

I love how the painting traps human flaw and its aftermath in dreamy, lucid brush strokes. I wish Blake had illustrated fairy tales. Because this next painting should actually inspire a story if it hasn’t already!

The Ghost of a Flea

ghost of a flea- blake.jpg

In his self-termed “fresco” technique, he would etch out his drawings on a flat surface, using oil and tempera, and mirror it on paper by  pressing it against the damp paints. He would then touch it up with ink and water colours.

If you would like a reading on this, try this blog. But gaze at it for a whole minute at least before you go.




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