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William Blake
Dates: British, 1757 - 1827
Biographical Account:

William Blake (1752-1827)


William Blake, an English engraver, artist and poet was born on the 28th November 1752.


Blake was an apprentice for around seven years with James Basire, an old-fashioned printmaker who produced etchings followed by engraving. Blake learnt the techniques that would become his profession.


In 1779 Blake attended the Royal Academy in Old Somerset House, where he exhibited many of his watercolours. Here he rebelled against what he regarded as the unfinished style of fashionable painters such as Rubens, admired by, Joshua Reynolds, the schools first president. Blake began to detest Reynolds' attitude towards art, in particular his pursuit of "general truth" and "general beauty".


Blake’s religious and spiritual imagery have said to have been illustrations of his visions and inner voice. The imagery was that of his own mythology, based on the bible and Greek mythology, accompanying his ideas about the spiritual world being more important than the material world.


Blake’s work was largely unrecognised during his lifetime but he is now considered an important figure in the history of poetry and Romantic art.


Blake received a commission to illustrate Dante’s Devine Comedy with a series of engravings, however due to Blake’s death a year later only a few watercolours were completed and also seven engravings in proof form. Dante watercolours have been described as “among Blake's richest achievements, engaging fully with the problem of illustrating a poem of this complexity. The mastery of watercolour has reached an even higher level than before, and is used to extraordinary effect in differentiating the atmosphere of the three states of being in the poem”


Blake died of unknown causes on the 12th August 1827.

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