Los and Orc are characters in William Blake's intricate mythology. Los is the earthly fallen form of one of the four Zoas, Urthona. He is known as the "everlasting prophet," and he builds the visionary city of Golgonooza. Los is sometimes depicted as a smith, pounding with his hammer on a furnace. This is a metaphor for the throbbing of the human heart. Orc, a fallen figure, represents revolt and stands in opposition to Urizen, who represents tradition. He embodies the spirit of rebellion and liberty that sparked the French Revolution.
This painting depicts two figures from Blake's mythology, Los and Orc. The setting seems to be the entrance of a cave. In a jealous rage, Los has tied his son Orc to a rock. The chains are visible on all four limbs. Los realises his mistake too late: Orc's limbs have already been embedded in the rock. Los seems to raise his hands in despair, almost like he is beckoning the gods above to come and help him free his son.
Orc lies helplessly on the ground, looking up at his father. The expression on his face almost seems to ask his father if he is now pleased with himself, now that he has grounded his son permanently. Both characters bear their nakedness, none of whom is eager to hide or cover themselves up. What the artist intended to illustrate with the nudity is unclear.
The dark colour Blake selected to dominate the picture conveys a gloomy tone. For the whole backdrop, he utilised a pure brown ochre. Orc's shadow, signifying doom, is a grey wash. It almost seems like there are ashes on the ground where he lays. The light glowing on the figures' naked bodies is illustrated using a paint mixture of vermilion and chalk. In the foreground, at the feet of the characters, a yellow pigment is utilised. It hasn't faded and is a shiny, translucent gamboge. It breaks the monotony of the brown ochre and dark grey that dominates the picture.
The Los and Orc painting is currently in the custody of the Tate Museum. It is located in the United Kingdom, positioned in London, and is among the most prominent contemporary and modern art museums worldwide. It hosts the UK's national assemblage of British art. In 1962, Mrs. Jane Samuel presented the painting to honour the memory of her husband.