William Blake was born on November 28, 1757 in London's West End. Along with being a visual artist, painter, and printmaker, William Blake was one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era. His body of work wasn't widely known while he was alive, but in the year's since his passing, Blake's literary and artistic talents have received positive critical acclaim around the world.
The poet intentionally aimed for his work to eschew reason in favor of imagination and creativity. His most well-known collection of poetry, Songs of Innocence, was published in 1789, and followed with Songs of Experience in 1794. Another famous work of William Blake's is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which is a satire revolving around religion and philosophy. The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem are other now-popular collections of prose that Blake created during his lifetime. These unconventional works break from the traditional practices of using specified plots, rhyme and characters to tell a story.
William Blake began training as an artist and writer at a young age. After revealing to his parents at the age of 10 that he wanted to become a painter, they sent Blake to art school. There he learned to draw, paint, and become skilled in other visual arts. At 12, William Blake started writing poetry in his spare time. Once attending art school became too expensive for his parents, Blake became an engraver's apprentice at 14 years old. The time he spent apprenticing by sketching tombs in Westminseter Abbey gave William Blake lasting inspiration, which carried through in his art and writing. Once his seven year apprenticeship was completed, Blake studied for a short time at the Royal Academy. He was man who greatly enjoyed learning, and he taught himself Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Italian so that he could read classical works of literature in their original languages.
Blake is known as being a visionary poet, and he did write about having actual visions from God during his lifetime. Blake claimed that a vision from his deceased brother, Robert, aided him in developing the technique he used to print Songs of Innocence. Some of William Blake's pieces are inspired by his visions, while others speak against the political climate of his time. Blake's first book, Poetical Sketches, was published in 1783 with the assistance of his wife, Catherine Blake. The poems contained in Poetical Sketches are criticisms and protests against the actions of King George III. Blake continued to be a nonconformist throughout his adulthood, and he was closely associated with other radical thinkers of the Romantic Age, including Mary Wollstonecraft and Thomas Paine.
William Blake died at the age of 69 on August 12, 1827 in London. He had little money or resources, but he did have the admiration of a young group of artists who became Blake's friends and financial supporters during his final years. One of these artists, John Linnell, commissioned William Blake to create illustrations to accompany a printing of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. These particular illustrations, his other paintings and visual works, and his published collections of poetry and writings are all apart of William Blake's enduring legacy.