The Life of William Blake
“I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man’s. I will not Reason and Compare; my business is to Create.” A nonconformist to the core, life for William Blake was riddled with opposition. Whether the disagreements concerned individual people or entire government institutions, Blake’s background helped to shape his radical beliefs and resulted in an eclectic body of work which later proved ahead of its time.
Dissension was introduced to William at a young age, when his family decided to leave the orthodox religion of that time. They felt the Church of England was too strict, yet spirituality was still extremely important to the Blakes and the Bible became a constant companion of William’s. The religious impact on the young boy was first exhibited at the age of 9 when he claimed to have seen a tree filled with angelic figures. William’s parents frowned upon his claims, feeling they were nothing more than mere fabrications, yet acknowledged the fact that Blake had a rampant imagination with an undeniable gift in the arts. William’s parents suggested he start an art print collection to further cultivate his interest; introducing Blake to artists Michelangelo and Raphael, of which he drew most of his later inspiration.
After learning to read and write at home, William’s parents enrolled the young boy into Henry Pars’ Drawing school where he learned the fundamental elements of art. Four years later, in 1772, William began an apprenticeship to an engraver by the name of James Basire. Blake’s main task as an apprentice involved trips to churches such as Westminster Abbey where he spent hours sketching various tombs. This obligation, although menial, proved very influential to Blake’s work; the gothic settings of the old churches “contributed to the formation of his artistic style and ideas.” (cite printout) With his apprenticeship completed and an eagerness to expand his ability beyond sketching and engraving,...