San Francisco

“Summer Exhibits”

Ray Lewis

The season’s outstanding show at this in­timate graphics gallery was an unusual array of prints from William Blake’s illustrations to Dante’s Inferno and the Book of Job. Of the two most famous sets of illustrations to Dante’s theo­logical epic, Dore’s and Blake’s, Blake’s tends more to a mystical austerity and mannerism (that is occasionally mere­ly barren) while Dore’s interpretations are more expressionistic and dramatic­ally macabre in conjuring the horren­dous abysses and grotesque tortures of purgatory and the inferno. It is in the Book of Job that Blake displays his highest powers of imagination and dramatic utterance as a graphic artist. The more recent exhibition of a series of fantasy portrait heads by Nathan Oliveira, was disappointing. Stark and simple they are, but somehow lacking in power or conviction. They seem to have been contrived to achieve a maximum of commercial return on the artist’s established prestige for a mini­mum of effort and thought.

––Palmer D. French