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WILLIAM BLAKE
1757-1827
  • William Blake was born in London on November 28, 1757,to James, a hosier, and Catherine Blake
  • From early childhood, Blake spoke of having visions.
  • At four he saw God "put his head on the window"; around age nine, while walking, he saw a tree filled with angels
  • At age ten, Blake expressed a wish to become a painter, so his parents sent him to drawing school
  • Two years later, Blake began writing poetry.
  • In 1772, he married an illiterate woman named Catherine Boucher. Blake taught her to read and to write, and instructed her in draftsmanship. The couple had no children.
  • They worked together to produce an edition of Blake's poems and drawings, called "Songs of Innocence".
  • The books sold slowly, for a few shillings each. Today a single copy is worth many thousands of dollars.
  • "Songs of Innocence" (1789) shows life as it seems to innocent children. "Songs of Experience" (1794) tells of a mature person's realization of pain and terror in the universe.
  • Blake also began training his younger brother Robert in drawing, painting, and engraving. Robert fell ill during the winter of 1787 and passed away, probably to consumption
  • As Robert died, Blake saw his brother's spirit rise up, "clapping its hands for joy."
  • Blake was a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg who offered a gentle and mystic interpretation of Christianity
  • Blake's first printed work, "Poetical Sketches" (1783), is a collection of apprentice verse, mostly imitating classical models.
  • Blake wrote poetry that largely reflects Swedenborgian view
  • The poems protest against war, tyranny, and King George III's treatment of the American colonies.
  • He published his most popular collection, "Songs of Innocence", in 1789 and followed it, in 1794, with "Songs of Experience".
  • He believed imagination over reason in the creation of both his poetry and images, asserting that ideal forms should be constructed not from observations of nature but from inner visions. He declared in one poem, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's
  • Few people in his time realized that Blake expressed these visions with a talent that approached genius.
  • He lived in near poverty and died unrecognized
  • Today, however, Blake is one of England's great figures of art and literature and one of the most inspired and original painters of his time.
  • On August 12, 1827, William Blake died not of the depression but of symptoms of gallstones. William Blake's major contribution to the Romantic period in history was most likely his belief that the world and the people in it lacked the imagination and creativity that it craved. NEXT