( Originally Published 1955 )
British painter, engraver, poet and mystic. An imaginative genius of tremendous originality, his art was not truly accepted until almost a century after his death, when he became a strong influence. His vital energy and passion lifted his art to a new visionary plane, entirely personal in quality. The mystical paintings and sketches evoke another world; they influenced a youthful group of later followers known as The Ancients, including among others John Linnell and Samuel Palmer. Among the different kinds of-work done by Blake are unique paintings and engravings that illustrate his own sensitive poetry, the works of Dante and the Bible. Often compared with that of Michelangelo in the expressiveness of physical forms, Blake's style is more clearly related in both form and spirit to the Mannerists of the mid-sixteenth century. The British painter sets his elongated forms in motion across the surface of the page or sheet, maintaining a certain two-dimensionality within which the forms twist and writhe in their somewhat artificial (i.e., mannered), yet very expressive fashion. Apprenticed to an engraver at fourteen, Blake pursued the illustrator's career while writing his own poetry and painting watercolors. He evolved a special method of color printing, producing illuminated editions of his own writings with colored drawings. A fanatically honest person, he resisted patronage and its implications, remaining obscure until 1818 when his disciple Linnell formed a group around him, buying his drawings and helping to secure such commissions as the illustrations for the Book of Job and the Divine Comedy.