Illustrating Paradise Lost

Picturing Paradise

Since its first illustrated edition rolled off the press in 1688, Paradise Lost has fired the imaginations of artists. Generations of painters, draughtsmen, and printmakers have tried to create a visual equivalent to Milton’s poetry. Between the late seventeenth and early twentieth centuries a flurry of illustrated editions appeared, whose plates very visibly reflected changing artistic tastes. Seventeenth-century artists drew episodes from Paradise Lost with an eye for the emblematic. But by the eighteenth century, painters such as John Martin began to look to Milton’s epic as a storehouse of the Sublime—the rolling vistas of Eden, or the flaming, subterranean crags of Hell.

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