William Blake

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William Blake

William Blake was born November 28, 1757, in London, England. He was best known as an English poet, visionary, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake's work is today considered important and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual arts. He was voted 38th in a poll of the 100 Greatest Britons organized by the BBC in 2002.

Blake was the third of seven children, who consisted of one girl and six boys, two of whom died in infancy. Blake's father, James, was a hosier. He never attended school, being educated at home by his mother. The Bible was an early and large influence on Blake, and would remain a source of inspiration throughout his life. Blake’s father purchased him antiques and Blake began to engrave Greek drawings. His parents realized regular school was not for him, so they sent him to take drawing classes. He studied subjects that interested him, and he soon began to study and write poetry.

On 4 August 1772, Blake became apprenticed to engraver James Basire of Great Queen Street, for the term of seven years. At the age of 21, he was to become a professional engraver. In 1778, Blake became a student at the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, near the Strand. While the terms of his study required no payment, he was expected to supply his own materials throughout the six-year period.

In 1782, Blake met John Flaxman, who was to become his patron, and Catherine Boucher, who was to become his wife. During this time, Blake was getting over a relationship that had ended in a refusal of his marriage proposal. Blake married Catherine on August 18 1782 in St. Mary's Church, Battersea. His wife Catherine was illiterate and on her wedding document she signed it with the letter “x.” Blake taught Catherine to read and write and also to engrave

In 1788, at the age of 31, Blake began to try relief etching, a method he used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and his poems, including his longer 'prophecies' and his masterpiece the "Bible". Blake and Catherine’s marriage lasted until death. They had few arguments including the problem of having children, and Catherine being illiterate.
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