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Artists William Blake
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William Blake

English Poet, Painter, and Printmaker

Movement: Romanticism

Born: November 28, 1757 - London, United Kingdom

Died: August 12, 1827 - Westminster, United Kingdom

William Blake Timeline

Quotes

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."
William Blake
"The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself"
William Blake
"I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create."
William Blake
"Art is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death."
William Blake
"No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings."
William Blake
"Great things are done when men and mountains meet."
William Blake
"The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction."
William Blake
"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."
William Blake
"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself."
William Blake
"In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors."
William Blake
"The person who does not believe in miracles surely makes it certain that he or she will never take part in one."
William Blake
"The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this: that the more distinct, sharp, and wirey the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art; and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism, and bungling".
William Blake
"This world of imagination is the world of eternity; it is the divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of the vegetated body. This world of imagination is infinite & eternal, whereas the world of generation, or vegetation, is finite & temporal."
William Blake

"To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour."

William Blake Signature

Synopsis

Though he is perhaps still better-known as a poet than an artist, in many ways William Blake's life and work provide the template for our contemporary understanding of what a modern artist is and does. Overlooked by his peers, and sidelined by the academic institutions of his day, his work was championed by a small, zealous group of supporters. His lack of commercial success meant that Blake lived his life in relative poverty, a life in thrall to a highly individual, sometimes iconoclastic, imaginative vision. Through his prints, paintings, and poems, Blake constructed a mythical universe of an intricacy and depth to match Dante's Divine Comedy, but which, liked Dante's, bore the imprint of contemporary culture and politics. When Blake died, in a small house in London in 1827, he was poor and somewhat anonymous; today, we can recognize him as a prototype for the avant-garde artists of the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whose creative spirit stands at odds with the prevailing mood of their culture.

Key Ideas

Blake was perhaps the quintessential Romantic artist. Like his peers in the world of Romantic literature - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelly - Blake stressed the primacy of individual imagination and inspiration to the creative process, rejecting the Neoclassical emphasis on formal precision which had defined much 18th-century painting and poetry. Above all else, Blake scorned the contemporary culture of Enlightenment and industrialization, which stood for a mechanization and intellectual reductivism which he deplored. Blake felt that imaginative insight was the only way to cast off the veil thrown over reality by rational thought, claiming that "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."
Blake is unique amongst the artists of his day, and rare amongst artists of any era, in his integration of writing and painting into a single creative process, and in his use of innovative production techniques to combine image and text in single compositions. Celebrated for his visual output, Blake is also recognized as one of the most radical poets of the early Romantic period, combining a highly wrought, Miltonic style with grand, Gothic themes. Moreover, through original techniques such as his "illuminated printing" Blake was able to adapt his craft to meet the demands of his creativity.
Blake's spiritual vision was central to his creativity, and was crucially and uniquely informed by a complex, imaginative pantheon of his own making, populated by deities such as Urizen, Los, Enitharmion, and Orc. Grand allegorical narratives illustrated with Blake's own designs, were played out in this universe, which might seem to have existed in a space apart from reality. However, in his epic poem sequences, Blake imagined the fate of the human world, in the era of the French and American Revolutions, as hinging on these sequences, determined by the battles between reason and imagination, lust and piety, order and revolution, which his protagonists represented.

Biography

William Blake Photo

Childhood

William Blake was born in Soho, London, into a respectable working-class family. His father James sold stockings and gloves for a living, while his mother, Catherine Hermitage, looked after the couple's seven children, two of whom died in infancy. William, a strong-willed boy and an evident prodigy from a young age, often absconded from school to wander through the streets of London, or spent his time copying drawings of Greek antiquities; moreover, inspired by the work of Raphael and Michelangelo, he also developed an early fascination with poetry. Though his childhood was peaceful and pleasant, William began experiencing visions at the age of eight, claiming to see angels on trees, or wings that looked like stars. Though troubled by his stories, Blake's parents supported his artistic ambitions, enrolling him when he was ten at the Henry Par drawing academy, then a well-regarded preparatory school for young artists.

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William Blake Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
William Blake
Interactive chart with William Blake's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

John Milton
Sandro BotticelliSandro Botticelli
Leonardo da VinciLeonardo da Vinci
MichelangeloMichelangelo
Fra AngelicoFra Angelico

Personal Contacts

John Flaxman
Henry FuseliHenry Fuseli
James Barry

Movements

RenaissanceRenaissance
RomanticismRomanticism

Influences on Artist
William Blake
William Blake
Years Worked: 1771 - 1827
Influenced by Artist

Artists

John Everett MillaisJohn Everett Millais
Dante Gabriel RossettiDante Gabriel Rossetti
G. F. Watts
John William Waterhouse

Personal Contacts

Samuel Palmer
George Richmond
Edward Calvert

Movements

The Ancients
The Pre-RaphaelitesThe Pre-Raphaelites
RomanticismRomanticism
SymbolismSymbolism
SurrealismSurrealism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Greg Thomas

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Greg Thomas
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