Hired to Depress: A Digital Scholarly Edition of William Blake's Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds' Discourses

Blake marginalia Title Page A02

Advice of the Popes who succeeded the Age of Rafael
Degrade first the Arts if you’d Mankind degrade.
Hire Idiots to Paint with cold light and hot shade:
Give high Price for the worst, leave the best in disgrace,
And with Labours of Ignorance fill every place.

Editorial Note:
The Royal Academy established an aesthetic market for genres, subjects, and methods of art at astonishingly high prices. Consequently, this moment renders other types of art diminished and disgraced.  Blake compares the restrictive funding during the Reformation to the ostracism of visionaries of his own time.

The line of “cold light and hot shade” would be later alluded to by Tom Clark in his poem “Deep Cold” first published in Light and Shade: New and Selected Poems.

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