November 28, 1757 - August 12, 1827
Painter, Poet and Printmaker
From London England
Served in London, England
"Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell's despair."
William Blake was born in London, where he spent most of his life. His father was a successful London hosier and attracted by the Religious teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. Blake was first educated at home, chiefly by his mother. Blake remained very close to his mother and wrote a lot of poetry about her. Poems such as Cradle Song illustrate Blake’s fond memories for his upbringing by his mother:
Sweet dreams, form a shade
O’er my lovely infant’s head;
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
By happy, silent, moony beams.
Sweet sleep, with soft down
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweep sleep, Angel mild,
Hover o’er my happy child.
His parents were broadly sympathetic with his artistic temperament and they encouraged him to collect Italian prints. He found work as an engraver, joining the trade at an early age. He found the early apprenticeship rather boring, but the skills he learnt proved useful throughout his artistic life.
During his lifetime Blake never made much money. It was only after his death that his genius was fully appreciated. His engravings and commissioned work drew enough money to survive, but at times he had to rely on the support of some of his close friends. Because of Blake’s temperaments he was not always suited to maintaining friendships. On one occasion he got into trouble with the authorities for forcing a soldier to leave his back garden. He faced the possibility of jail, but through being his own defence counsel, he was able to gain acquittal. Blake was very much a free spirit who readily spoke his mind, so much so that some acquaintances thought he was mad.
The esteemed poet, William Wordsworth, said on the death of Blake:
“There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.”
Blake died on August 12 1827, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery and Bunhill Fields. After his death his influence steadily grew through the Pre-Raphaelites and later noted poets such as T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats.
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