William Blake's Glad Day Frontispiece

Invented in the early 1600's in France, a frontispiece is a decorative illustration that comes before the title page of a book, and often depicts thematic elements from the story. “Glad Day” is a printed illustration made by the poet and artist William Blake (1757-1827). It was used as a frontispiece for some of his illuminated books of poetry. The engraving has become familiar to all admirers of Blake's work: a naked man (known in Blake's mythology as "Albion", a universal everyman) is depicted, awakened, arriving at dawn, triumphant, celebratory, and joyous to share the good news he brings. It is a vision of humanity united in one body to rise above enslavement and step into a new dawn, a collective vision that challenges both the order of society and the minds that uphold it. Through self sacrifice and love, that most good and beautiful form of mankind itself, our conscious mind, has been liberated from all his searching and his labors everywhere on earth.

It's interesting to observe that expert commentators go on further and read various other thematic elements into the meaning of Glad Day, all due to the fact that 1.) all of William Blake's human figures are spiritual symbols, and 2.) he was never explicit about Albion's meaning:

“We believe that this depicts Adam, (which would explain the nudity), as he walks in the Garden of Eden to go visit God for their evening walks.”
“Albion is in glory. England is in union with the universe. All worldly politics is dazzled. Who could ever imagine this glad day on any morning, or dare to frame this image on any public poster? It could only be propaganda for a party of apocalypse.”
“... his legs break a stable symmetry. One stands upright and supporting on the rock; the other is on the wing, lightly and gracefully touching down. The body's weight is uneven. The foot begins to lift. The head is slightly turned. Action enters the figure. Albion is in the middle of a dance step, and his level arms are keeping the balance. It might be on the point of a spin. So the utopian figure is saved from being fixed and rigid. It is still aspiring and still moving.”

Whether this particular day exists at the beginning of time, the end of time, or is a utopian ideal, (or perhaps it is a portrayal of the life of the artist himself), the depiction of a wholly realized man accepting those responsibilities that come with possession of an awakened consciousness, presents a challenge that goes out to all of us. If Glad Day is honest and true, then maybe we consider its challenge, and accept the burden it places on us as individuals to stay alert and attend more. The challenge of Glad Day is, also, the challenge of high art.