William Blake was an artist whose influence helped shape the Modernist period.
Born in November 1757, Blake created etchings, paintings and poems. During his lifetime his talent was acknowledged, but his art was widely considered too bizarre.
Prophetic poetry, philosophy and mysticism were all woven into Blake’s work, which includes the famous ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’, his engravings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and ‘Jerusalem’.
Although Blake’s work for Dante is widely regarded, he did not produce the full series of engravings that were originally planned, due to his death in 1827. Blake worked on the engravings even on the day of his death.
In 1788, the 31 year-old Blake began experimenting with relief etching, or illuminated painting – a new method he subsequently used to produce illuminated books and prints, such as ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. The process saw Blake write on copper plates using a protected medium, before dissolving the remaining copper with acid, leaving the design behind ‘in relief’.
Blake was influenced by both the American and French Revolutions. His early work exuded rebellion against dogmatic religion. Now named a saint, Blake is buried in the Dissenter’s burial ground in Dunhill Fields, London.