English painter, poet and printmaker William Blake was born 28 November 1757 at 28 Broad Street (now Broadwick St.) in Soho, London. He attended school only long enough to learn reading and writing, leaving at the age of ten, and was otherwise educated at home by his mother Catherine Wright Armitage Blake. He was baptised on 11 December at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London. Blake started engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities purchased for him by his father, a practice that was preferred to actual drawing. Within these drawings Blake found his first exposure to classical forms through the work of Raphael, Michelangelo, Maarten van Heemskerck and Albrecht Dürer. When William was ten years old, he was enrolled in drawing classes at Pars’s drawing school in the Strand. He read avidly on subjects of his own choosing. During this period, Blake made explorations into poetry; his early work displays knowledge of Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser, and the Psalms. In 1772, Blake was apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great Queen Street, at the sum of £52.10, for a term of seven years. At the end of the term, aged 21, he became a professional engraver.
On 8 October 1779, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, near the Strand Where he became a friend of John Flaxman, Thomas Stothard and George Cumberland and shared radical views, with Stothard and Cumberland joining the Society for Constitutional Information. In 1782 Blake met his future wife Catherine Boucher and married her on 18 August 1782 in St Mary’s Church, Battersea. Blake’s first collection of poems, Poetical Sketches, was printed around 1783.After his father’s death, Blake and former fellow apprentice James Parker opened a print shop in 1784, and began working with radical publisher Joseph Johnson, whose house was a meeting-place for some leading English intellectual dissidents of the time: theologian and scientist Joseph Priestley, philosopher Richard Price, artist John Henry Fuseli, early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and Anglo-American revolutionary Thomas Paine. Along with William Wordsworth and William Godwin. In 1784 Blake composed his unfinished manuscript An Island in the Moon.Blake illustrated Original Stories from Real Life (1788; 1791) by Mary Wollstonecraft and in 1793’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake condemned the cruel absurdity of enforced chastity and marriage without love and defended the right of women to complete self-fulfilmenti
In 1788, aged 31, Blake experimented with relief etching, a method he used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and Blake used this process for most of his well-known works, including Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Book of Thel, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Jerusalem. Although Blake has become most famous for his relief etching, his commercial work largely consisted of intaglio engraving, the standard process of engraving in the 18th century in which the artist incised an image into the copper plate, a complex and laborious process.examples of Blake’s intaglio engraving include illustrations of the Book of Job.In 1800, Blake moved to a cottage at Felpham, in Sussex (now West Sussex), to take up a job illustrating the works of William Hayley, a minor poet. It was in this cottage that Blake began work on Milton. Blake had trouble with authority which came to a head in August 1803, when he was involved in a physical altercation with a soldier, John Schofield and was charged not only with assault, but with uttering seditious and treasonable expressions against the king. Blake returned to London in 1804 and began to write and illustrate Jerusalem (1804–20), his most ambitious work. Having conceived the idea of portraying the characters in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In 1818 he was introduced to a group of artists who called themselves the Shoreham Ancients. The group shared Blake’s rejection of modern trends and his belief in a spiritual and artistic New Age.
Aged 65, Blake’s last years were spent at Fountain Court off the Strand where he began work on illustrations for the Book of Job and was then commissioned to do a series of engravings to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy in 1826. Sadly though Blake died 12 August 1827 and only a handful of watercolours were completed. Despite being Largely unrecognised during his lifetime and considered mad by his contempories for his idiosyncratic views, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His paintings and poetry have been characterised as part of the Romantic movement and “Pre-Romantic” and he was placed at number 38 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.