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William Blake
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English artist William Blake, an engraver, etcher, lithographer, watercolorist and visionary poet, became a leading member of the English Romantics. Born in London in 1757, the son of a clothier, Blake demonstrated a marked artistic bent at a very young age, and at ten was sent to begin his studies at the Paris Academy in the Strand, where he studied from 1767 to 1771. At fourteen he was apprenticed to the fashionable engraver William Wynne Ryland (1732-1783), but concern about Ryland’s business practices (Ryland was later hanged for forging banknotes), caused Blake to leave and spend the years 1771-1778 apprenticed to James Basire the Elder (1730-1802). Basire often sent Blake to copy the funerary sculptures of Westminster Abbey and the old churches of London - and it may be that the long hours spent in dimness and isolation greatly (and perhaps morbidly) enhanced his innate sympathy with the supernatural. On the termination of the seven-year apprenticeship, Blake studied for a short time at the newly-established Royal Academy of Arts. Blake would exhibit frequently at the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy. With the exception of his brief period of study in Paris, Blake never went abroad, and had no contact with artistic life save that of Georgian London. He drew his inspiration from the most mystical of texts, including the Bible, Dante, Milton, and Ossian. The strangeness of his work has always made it difficult to clearly situate Blake in the history of art. He died in London in 1827. (Rev. TNB 8/2015)