British poet, painter, visionary mystic, and engraver, illustrated and printed his own books.
Many of Blake's best poems are found in two collections, Songs of Innocence from 1789, to which was added in 1794 the Songs of Experience, unlike the earlier work, never published on its own. Broadly speaking the collections look at human nature and society from optimistic and pessimistic viewpoints, respectively—and Blake thinks that you need both sides to see the whole truth. In 1790 he had explored the same theme more rudimentarily in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
In The Book of Urizen he goes one step further towards building his own mythology by presenting the Eternal Urizen as an alternative creative god.
1757 Born 28 November in London to James Blake, a hosier, and Catherine Wright Armitage Blake.
- 1767 Enrolled in Henry Pars's drawing school.
- 1772 Apprenticed to James Basire, 31 Great Queen Street, engraver to the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society.
- 1779 Apprenticeship ends. Becomes journeyman copy engraver. Admitted as student to Royal Academy of Art's Schools of Design.
- 1780 Gordon Riots in London in June, in which Blake may have participated. Arrested on suspicion of spying during sketching trip on the River Medway.
- 1782 Marries 18 August Catherine Boucher.
- 1783 Publishes Poetical Sketches.
- 1784 Sets up printing and publishing partnership with James Parker at 27 Broad Street. Begins writing An Island in the Moon.
- 1787 Younger brother Robert dies in February.
- c. 1788 Invents relief etching. Publishes All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion, first illuminated books.
- 1789 Publishes Songs of Innocence and begins The Book of Thel. Writes Tiriel (c. 1789). Attends organizational meeting of the New Jerusalem Church in April.
- 1790 Publishes The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
- 1791 Writes the first of several proposed parts of The French Revolution. Composes and engraves six original designs for Mary Wollstonecraft's Original Stories from Real Life.
- 1793 Publishes Visions of the Daughters of Albion, America a Prophecy, and For Children: The Gates of Paradise. Engraves Albion rose.
- 1794 Publishes Europe: a Prophecy, Songs of Experience, and The [First] Book of Urizen.
- 1795 Publishes The Book of Ahania, The Book of Los, and The Song of Los. Produces 12 large color-printed drawings. Works on 537 water color illustrations to Edward Young's Night Thoughts.
- c. 1796 Begins writing Vala, or The Four Zoas.
- 1797 Begins set of 116 water color illustrations to the poems of Thomas Gray for John Flaxman. Young's Night Thoughts published with 43 plates engraved by Blake after his own designs.
- 1800 Moves to Felpham, Sussex, to work for patron William Hayley.
Portrait of Blake by Thomas Phillips.
- 1801 Produces eight water color illustrations of Milton's Comus for the Rev. Joseph Thomas, the first of several series of Milton illustrations that will later include the Nativity Ode, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.
- 1804 Begins work on Milton: a Poem and Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion.
- 1805 Begins illustrations for Blair's The Grave, to be published by Robert Cromek. Produces 19 water color illustrations of the Book of Job for Thomas Butts.
- 1809 Exhibits 16 paintings at 28 Broad Street, accompanied by a Descriptive Catalogue defending his theory and practice.
- 1818 Meets John Linnell. Begins sketching Visionary Heads for John Varley.
- c. 1820 Publishes For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise.
- 1821 Virgil's Pastorals, edited by Robert John Thornton, published with wood engravings by Blake.
- 1822 Publishes The Ghost of Abel and On Homers Poetry [and] On Virgil (c. 1822).
- 1824 Begins illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
- 1826 Publishes 21 engraved Illustrations of the Book of Job. Produces Laocoön. Begins Genesis manuscript.
- 1827 Dies 12 August in his rooms at 3 Fountain Court.
Also see a collection of his paintings in the gallery archive.
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