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William Blake
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Soho, London
Born on 28th of November 1757
Died in London
Died on 12th of August 1827

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William Blake was born 28th November 1757 and died 12th August 1827. He was an English poet, painter and engraver, who died largely unrecognised during his lifetime. His work is now considered seminal in the history of both poetry and the visual arts. He was born in Golden Square, London to a middle-class family, the third of 7 children. His father James was a hosier, and both his parents were Dissenters. William never attended school and was educated at home by his mother. He began engraving copies of Greek antiquities and he was enrolled in drawing classes. He read avidly on subjects of his own choosing, making explorations into poetry. In 1772, after attending drawing school, he became apprentice to James Basire, an engraver based in Great Queen Street, London. After his 7 year apprenticeship was over, Blake briefly studied at the Royal Academy where he rebelled against the aesthetic beliefs of its president, Joshua Reynolds. He later formed friendships with John Flaxman (who became his patron) and philosopher, Henry Fuseli, as well as other academics and intellectual dissidents of the time. He set up a print shop with his brother Robert in 1784, and began working with radical publisher, Joseph Johnson. However, his business floundered, and for the rest of his life Blake eked out a living as an engraver and illustrator. He illustrated 'Original Stories from Real Life' by Mary Wollstonecraft in 1788. His wife Catherine Boucher, whom he married in 1782, supported him throughout his struggles and helped him to print the illuminated poetry for which he is remembered today. In 1788 Blake began to experiment with relief etching, a method he invented and used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and poems, and in 1789 he published his gentle, 'Songs of Innocence' poetry collection. This was followed in 1794 by 'Songs of Experience', which contained profound expressions of adult corruption and political repression. In 1800 he moved to a cottage in Felpham, Sussex, to take up a job illustrating the works of William Hayley, a minor poet. Whilst living in Sussex Blake wrote, 'Milton: a Poem', from which the hymn 'Jerusalem' took its opening words. He returned to London in 1804 and began to write and illustrate 'Jerusalem', his most ambitious work. His vision of civilisation as inevitably chaotic and contradictory mirrors the political turmoil of his era. He was part of a group of artists called the Shoreham Ancients who rejected modern trends and believed in a spiritual and artistic New Age. At the age of 65, Blake began work on illustrations for the 'Book of Job', and he started to sell a number of his works for this and other Bible illustrations to his friend and patron, Thomas Butts. In 1826 he was commissioned to produce a series of engravings for Dante's 'Inferno', which was cut short by his death in 1827. He claimed to experience visions from a young age and throughout his life, which were often associated with religious themes and imagery. Although Blake attacked conventional religion in his own day, God and Christianity constituted the core of his works, which he believed he was instructed to create by Archangels. Blake was buried at the Dissenter's burial ground in Bunhill Fields, alongside his parents. In 1957 a memorial was erected in Westminster Abbey, in memory of Blake and his wife Catherine.

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Links:
http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/ Blake Archive

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