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- Biography - Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Information Centre
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Biography for William Blake

Born:1757-11-28 - London, England


Blake was one of the most talented and individual of all British artists and, uniquely is recognised as among the greatest poets ever to have been born in the country. Indeed he remains best known for his poetry, both nationally and throughout the world.
He trained as an engraver and attended the Royal Academy Schools for a year (1779-1780) before attempting to make a living as a reproductive engraver - reproducing the paintings of other artists in printmaking. He saw himself as a man destined to interpret the ways of God to Man and, although a deeply spiritual person, was regularly at odds with the practices of the established church, which he viewed as imprisoning and rigid. He produced his extraordinary 'Illuminated Books' in which he illustrated his own prophetic and complex poems, with an innovative form of relief etching, usually both printed in colour and with additional colouring added by hand. Such a laborious process means that no copy is ever quite the same as another, and each can be seen as an unique work of art. For much of his life he struggled in obscurity because his work proved so difficult and challenging to the public, but in 1818 he was rescued by a group of artists with similar visionary and religious reoccupations.Working at Shoreham in Kent, at that time an isolated and remote part of England, these young men saw Blake almost as an Old Testament prophet. Among them was the artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) who became one of his most fervent admirers.

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