William BlakeWilliam Blake 1757-1827

English poet, painter, engraver, and visionary.
Though he did not attend school, he was trained as an engraver at the Royal Academy and opened a print shop in London in 1784. He developed an innovative technique for producing coloured engravings and began producing his own illustrated books of poetry with his “illuminated printing,” including Songs of Innocence (1789), The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793), and Songs of Experience (1794). Jerusalem (1804–20), his third major epic treating the fall and redemption of humanity, is his most richly decorated book. His other major works include The Four Zoas (1795–1804) and Milton (1804–08). A late series of 22 watercolours inspired by the Book of Job includes some of his best-known pictures. He was called mad because he was single-minded and unworldly; he lived on the edge of poverty and died in neglect. His books form one of the most strikingly original and independent bodies of work in the Western cultural tradition. Ignored by the public of his day, he is now regarded as one of the earliest and greatest figures of Romanticism.

Courtesy of Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2003.