Poet, artist, printmaker, visionary William Blake (1757-1827) is an unique representative of the (pre-) Romantic period. His work is strongly symbolic, philosophical, mystical and very expressive. Many of his views were unusual at the time; he strongly opposed organised religion (although the New Testament God is often present in his work) and he believed in sexual and racial freedom. Blake professed to have visions from a young age and much of his imagery seems to be derived from these often religious manifestations. He claimed the archangels themselves had ordered him to create his work. He also knew he would be an artist at a young age and became an engraver’s apprentice at 14, learning a skill that provided him with a livelihood for the rest of his life. He invented illuminating printing so he could combine his poems with illustrations. His wife Catherine often helped him hand colour the prints. Some of his most famous poems are collected in Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794).
“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.”
Song for today: The Doors – End of the Night
Some of these works are in the public domain / © Yale Center for British Art. Paul Mellon Collection