Eduardo Paolozzi's huge bronze of Newton (1995) at the British Library follows William Blake's 1795 print 'Newton' in illustrating how Isaac Newton's equations changed our view of the world to being one determined by mathematical laws.

by Charles Stirton July. 18, 2007 23555 views

William Blake's Newton 1795 revisited by Eduardo Palozzi 1995

William Blake's picture of Newton [] (1795) as a divine geometer was one of a series he created whilst living in Lambeth in the late 1790s. The romantic poet and naturalist depicted Newton as a misguided hero whose gaze was directed only at sterile geometrical diagrams drawn on the ground. This of course was not entirely true as we now well know that Sir Isaac Newton was well-versed in alchemy and the esoteric arts (As above, so below) apart from being one of the greatest scientists that ever lived..

Blake's “Newton” is a demonstration of his opposition to the “single-vision” of scientific materialism: The great philosopher-scientist is isolated in the depths of the ocean, his eyes (only one of which is visible) fixed on the compasses with which he draws on a scroll. He seems almost at one with the rocks upon which he sits (1795). Blake sought to exemplify the deeper significance of his philosophical thought in the tension between the immediate realism of his image and fantastic symbolism.

Newton, man naked and created out of chaos, appears to be breaking through the chaos. He is discovering the law that is inherent in his own physical nature. Man has tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and now his intellect reveals to his astonished gaze the abstract reality of creation.

Personification of Man Limited by Reason (Tate Gallery explanation

The eighteenth-century poet, Alexander Pope, wrote a satirical epitaph for Newton: ‘Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night/God said Let Newton be! And all was light'. This shows just how much the eighteenth century revered the great philosopher. Newton had successfully explained the workings of the physical universe. To Blake, however, this was not enough: Newton had omitted God, as well as all those significant emotional and spiritual elements which cannot be quantified, from his theories. Blake boasted that he had ‘fourfold vision’ while Newton with his ‘single vision’ was as good as asleep. To Blake, Newton, Bacon and Locke with their emphasis on reason were nothing more than ‘the three great teachers of atheism, or Satan’s Doctrine'.

In this print from 1795 Newton is portrayed drawing with a pair of compasses. Compasses were a traditional symbol of God, ‘architect of the universe’, but notice how the picture progresses from exuberance and colour on the left, to sterility and blackness on the right. In Blake's view Newton brings not light, but night.

So was the Scottish-Italian sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi [] influenced by Blake? The answer is yes, it was inspired directly from Blake's drawing.

This is a powerful sculpture and iconic as representative of a great shift in human thinking. I have tried to capture the spirit of Paolozzi's piece.

1. OK! So they nicked my glasses!

2. If I really concentrate hard enough I can make the skies even darker.

3. So this is what started it all.

4. I wish I had had built computers to do all this.

5. I really wanted them to build a pyramid. I mean, I gave them enough hints.

6. Just how many measurements do they want?

7. Newton about to be swept away by the rapidly rising tide of lavender.

8. Hey Guys, not there, over here.

9. Those contractors have mixed up the plans again. Let me check my notes.

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There are 9 comments , add yours!
Magpy 12 years, 7 months ago

beautiful set - wonderful presentation

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Stormfish 12 years, 7 months ago

very informative entry! i never cared much for newton, blake or paolozzi, but it was almost like reading a good history book to go through your entry!

thanks for the effort... it's these small gems of wisdom that make this blog a special palce for me! :-)

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Storytaylor 12 years, 7 months ago

great post. thanks. we see Palozzi´s technical skills.

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Lisa 12 years, 7 months ago

Great set. Your titles were funny. That is one big, very cool sculpture.

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Kayya Macuch 12 years, 7 months ago

very interesting sculptures and shots also

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Lynda 12 years, 7 months ago

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
--Isaac Newton, Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675

Interesting set.

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Krystyna Knypl 12 years, 7 months ago

interesting monument.

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Mariovirga 12 years, 7 months ago

Great piece of art! Nice set!

12 years, 7 months ago Edited
Ajoeh 12 years, 7 months ago

Good angle.. nice color.

12 years, 7 months ago Edited