William Blake (1757-1827) was a English Romantic painter, printmaker, poet, and radical visionary who expressed his mystical views through paintings, engravings, and poetry.
Born in London into a working-class family with strong nonconformist religious beliefs, Blake first studied art as a boy, at the drawing academy of Henry Pars.
He served a five-year apprenticeship with the commercial engraver James Basire before entering the Royal Academy Schools as an engraver at the age of twenty-two.
Although William completed much of his commercial work in line engraving, for his own projects he used his skills as an engraver to expand on the traditions of “stereotype” (a 16th century process whereby a metal cast is made of a wooded engraving) and created a new procedure called relief etching.
Yet Blake was the archetypal romantic painter, always depicting his subjects in heightened colors and scenes.
He was a master of allegory and often raised eyebrows and even ire by his choice of expression.
Although the majority of his early work was inspired by religious or classical figures, much of his later art was fuel by his inner landscape and informed by his religious visions.
Many of his contemporaries considered him quite mad as he readily spoke about his visions and fantasies with people and it was common knowledge among the artistic community of the day.
Whatever his inspiration, William Blake has left a legacy of poetry and paintings behind.
More of William Blake’s wonderfully imaginative paintings can be found at http://www.williamblake.org.