75 Facts About William Blake


William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker.


Largely unrecognised during his life, Blake is considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual art of the Romantic Age.


In 2002, William Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.


William Blake was the third of seven children, two of whom died in infancy.


William Blake's father, James, was a hosier, who had lived in London.


William Blake 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 Blake.


The Bible was an early and profound influence on William Blake, and remained a source of inspiration throughout his life.


William Blake started engraving copies of drawings of Greek antiquities purchased for him by his father, a practice that was preferred to actual drawing.


The number of prints and bound books that James and Catherine were able to purchase for young William suggests that the Blakes enjoyed, at least for a time, a comfortable wealth.


When William Blake was ten years old, his parents knew enough of his headstrong temperament that he was not sent to school but instead enrolled in drawing classes at Henry Pars' drawing school in the Strand.


William Blake read avidly on subjects of his own choosing.


William Blake saw Christ with his Apostles and a great procession of monks and priests, and heard their chant.


Over time, William Blake came to detest Reynolds' attitude towards art, especially his pursuit of "general truth" and "general beauty".


Reynolds wrote in his Discourses that the "disposition to abstractions, to generalising and classification, is the great glory of the human mind"; William Blake responded, in marginalia to his personal copy, that "To Generalize is to be an Idiot; To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit".


William Blake disliked Reynolds' apparent humility, which he held to be a form of hypocrisy.


Against Reynolds' fashionable oil painting, William Blake preferred the Classical precision of his early influences, Michelangelo and Raphael.


William Blake became a friend of John Flaxman, Thomas Stothard and George Cumberland during his first year at the Royal Academy.


William Blake was reportedly in the front rank of the mob during the attack.


In 1781 William Blake met Catherine Boucher when he was recovering from a relationship that had culminated in a refusal of his marriage proposal.


Later, in addition to teaching Catherine to read and write, William Blake trained her as an engraver.


That same year, William Blake composed his unfinished manuscript An Island in the Moon.


William Blake illustrated Original Stories from Real Life by Mary Wollstonecraft.


In Visions of the Daughters of Albion, William Blake condemned the cruel absurdity of enforced chastity and marriage without love and defended the right of women to complete self-fulfillment.


From 1790 to 1800, William Blake lived in North Lambeth, London, at 13 Hercules Buildings, Hercules Road.


The mosaics largely reproduce illustrations from William Blake's illuminated books, The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and the prophetic books.


In 1788, aged 31, William Blake experimented with relief etching, a method he used to produce most of his books, paintings, pamphlets and poems.


William Blake then etched the plates in acid to dissolve the untreated copper and leave the design standing in relief.


Stereotype, a process invented in 1725, consisted of making a metal cast from a wood engraving, but William Blake's innovation was, as described above, very different.


William Blake used illuminated printing 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.


Europe Supported by Africa and America is an engraving by William Blake held in the collection of the University of Arizona Museum of Art.


William Blake employed intaglio engraving in his own work, such as for his Illustrations of the Book of Job, completed just before his death.


Such techniques, typical of engraving work of the time, are very different from the much faster and fluid way of drawing on a plate that William Blake employed for his relief etching, and indicates why the engravings took so long to complete.


William Blake taught Catherine to write, and she helped him colour his printed poems.


Some biographers have suggested that William Blake tried to bring a concubine into the marriage bed in accordance with the beliefs of the more radical branches of the Swedenborgian Society, but other scholars have dismissed these theories as conjecture.


Over time, William Blake began to resent his new patron, believing that Hayley was uninterested in true artistry, and preoccupied with "the meer drudgery of business".


William Blake was charged not only with assault, but with uttering seditious and treasonable expressions against the king.


William Blake returned to London in 1804 and began to write and illustrate Jerusalem, his most ambitious work.


When William Blake learned he had been cheated, he broke off contact with Stothard.


William Blake set up an independent exhibition in his brother's haberdashery shop at 27 Broad Street in Soho.


Also around this time, William Blake gave vigorous expression of his views on art in an extensive series of polemical annotations to the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds, denouncing the Royal Academy as a fraud and proclaiming, "To Generalize is to be an Idiot".


Aged 65, Blake began work on illustrations for the Book of Job, later admired by Ruskin, who compared Blake favourably to Rembrandt, and by Vaughan Williams, who based his ballet Job: A Masque for Dancing on a selection of the illustrations.


William Blake believed she was regularly visited by Blake's spirit.


William Blake continued selling his illuminated works and paintings, but entertained no business transaction without first "consulting Mr Blake".


The exact number of destroyed manuscripts is unknown, but shortly before his death William Blake told a friend he had written "twenty tragedies as long as Macbeth", none of which survive.


For years since 1965, the exact location of William Blake's grave had been lost and forgotten.


William Blake was concerned about senseless wars and the blighting effects of the Industrial Revolution.


Erdman claims William Blake was disillusioned with the political outcomes of the conflicts, believing they had simply replaced monarchy with irresponsible mercantilism.


Erdman notes William Blake was deeply opposed to slavery and believes some of his poems, read primarily as championing "free love", had their anti-slavery implications short-changed.


In later works, such as Milton and Jerusalem, William Blake carves a distinctive vision of a humanity redeemed by self-sacrifice and forgiveness, while retaining his earlier negative attitude towards what he felt was the rigid and morbid authoritarianism of traditional religion.


Not all readers of William Blake agree upon how much continuity exists between William Blake's earlier and later works.


John Middleton Murry notes discontinuity between Marriage and the late works, in that while the early William Blake focused on a "sheer negative opposition between Energy and Reason", the later William Blake emphasised the notions of self-sacrifice and forgiveness as the road to interior wholeness.


Murry characterises the later William Blake as having found "mutual understanding" and "mutual forgiveness".


William Blake designed his own mythology, which appears largely in his prophetic books.


William Blake's mythology seems to have a basis in the Bible as well as Greek and Norse mythology, and it accompanies his ideas about the everlasting Gospel.


William Blake did not subscribe to the notion of a body distinct from the soul that must submit to the rule of the soul, but sees the body as an extension of the soul, derived from the "discernment" of the senses.


William Blake opposed the sophistry of theological thought that excuses pain, admits evil and apologises for injustice.


William Blake saw the concept of "sin" as a trap to bind men's desires, and believed that restraint in obedience to a moral code imposed from the outside was against the spirit of life:.


William Blake's championing of the imagination as the most important element of human existence ran contrary to Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and empiricism.


William Blake believed the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, which depict the naturalistic fall of light upon objects, were products entirely of the "vegetative eye", and he saw Locke and Newton as "the true progenitors of Sir Joshua Reynolds' aesthetic".


William Blake saw an analogy between this and Newton's particle theory of light.


Accordingly, William Blake never used the technique, opting rather to develop a method of engraving purely in fluid line, insisting that:.


William Blake further criticized Flaxman's styles and theories of art in his responses to criticism made against his print of Chaucer's Caunterbury Pilgrims in 1810.


William Blake scholarship was more focused on this theme in the earlier 20th century than today, although it is still mentioned notably by the William Blake scholar Magnus Ankarsjo who moderately challenges this interpretation.


William Blake was critical of the marriage laws of his day, and generally railed against traditional Christian notions of chastity as a virtue.


William Blake's poetry suggests that external demands for marital fidelity reduce love to mere duty rather than authentic affection, and decries jealousy and egotism as a motive for marriage laws.


Pierre Berger analyses William Blake's early mythological poems such as Ahania as declaring marriage laws to be a consequence of the fallenness of humanity, as these are born from pride and jealousy.


Ankarsjo records William Blake as having supported a commune with some sharing of partners, though David Worrall read The Book of Thel as a rejection of the proposal to take concubines espoused by some members of the Swedenborgian church.


Berger believes the young William Blake placed too much emphasis on following impulses, and that the older William Blake had a better formed ideal of a true love that sacrifices self.


William Blake retained an active interest in social and political events throughout his life, and social and political statements are often present in his mystical symbolism.


From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions.


William Blake believed he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by the same Archangels.


William Blake's work was neglected for a generation after his death and almost forgotten by the time Alexander Gilchrist began work on his biography in the 1860s.


The publication of the Life of William Blake rapidly transformed Blake's reputation, in particular as he was taken up by Pre-Raphaelites and associated figures, in particular Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Charles Swinburne.


William Blake's poetry came into use by a number of British classical composers such as Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, who set his works.


William Blake had an enormous influence on the beat poets of the 1950s and the counterculture of the 1960s, frequently being cited by such seminal figures as beat poet Allen Ginsberg, songwriters Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Van Morrison, and English writer Aldous Huxley.