Little Phoebus, from Illustrations to the songs from William Blake's "Island in the Moon"
1945 Charles Seliger Born: New York, New York 1926 Died: New York, New York 2009 white ink on black ink on paper sheet: 14 x 11 in. (35.6 x 27.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Michael Rosenfeld 1992.53.2 Not currently on view
At age nineteen, Charles Seliger drew illustrations for songs from the unfinished satire, An Island in the Moon by William Blake (1757-1827), an English poet, painter, and printmaker.
Written around 1785, the manuscript combines classical Greek satire with a critique of one of the intellectual salons of the London bourgeoisie. Each of Seliger’s drawings depict one or more of the absurdly named characters from Blake’s fictional island, some of whom also represent friends and contemporaries of the author. Suction, the Epicurean, for example, is believed to correspond to Blake’s brother Robert, and Quid, the Cynic refers to Blake himself.
Blake’s song lyrics range from vulgar to menacing to humorous. While Old Corruption is considered an allegory for sin, the song for which Seliger drew O, I Say You Joe, Throw Us the Ball was the first recorded poem to focus on cricket, an English bat-and-ball sport.
Abstract Drawings, 2012
Fantasy - monster
Literature - Blake - Island in the Moon
Literature - character - Little Phoebus