William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.
Born in 1757 in London, England, William Blake began writing at an early age and claimed to have had his first vision, of a tree full of angels, at age 10. He studied engraving and grew to love Gothic art, which he incorporated into his own unique works. A misunderstood poet, artist and visionary throughout much of his life, Blake found admirers late in life and has been vastly influential since his death in 1827.
William Blake was born on November 28, 1757, in the Soho district of London, England. He only casually attended school, being particularly educated at home by his mother. The Bible had an immediate, intellectual influence on Blake, and it would remain a lifetime source of motivation, coloring his life and works with the intense spirituality.
At an early age, Blake began enduring visions, and his friend and journalist Henry Crabb Robinson addressed that Blake saw God’s head resemble in a window when Blake was 4 years old. He also allegedly saw the prophet Ezekiel under a tree and had a vision of “a tree filled with angels.” Blake’s visions would have a perpetual impact on the art and writings that he composed.
The Young Artist
Blake’s artistic capabilities became evident in his youth, and by age 10, he was enrolled at Henry Pars’s drawing school, where he sketched the human figure by copying from plaster casts of ancient statues. At age 14, he apprenticed with an engraver. Blake’s teacher was the engraver to the London Society of Antiquaries, and Blake was sent to Westminster Abbey to make drawings of tombs and monuments, where his lifelong love of Gothic art was scattered.