William Blake, English poet, painter and printer, was born on November 28, 1757.
You may have read his poems – about the lamb, the tiger, or his sad song about the poor chimney sweep.
The strange thing is that in his own time many people thought him mad. Almost a century passed after his death in 1827 before he was recognised as a truly great poet and artist.
His family background was obscure. We don’t even know his mother’s name. But he showed a talent for drawing early and at 14 he became apprentice to an engraver.
When he was 21 he became an engraver on his own account and later married a girl called Catherine who had learnt to draw and paint so that she could work together with him.
When he was young, the French Revolution took place and he supported it. In England a different sort of change was taking place, which was called “The Industrial Revolution”.
Blake was horrified at the way the life was being changed, with people young and old obliged to work in “those dark satanic mills.”
He was particularly angered by the way the new factory owners and employers used child labour, and in many of his poems he defends the rights of childhood.
From the age of thirty he worked more on his paintings, making coloured lithographs by a method he invented. His pictures are often wild and strange, with very strong dramatic colours. They expressed the very complex ideas in his poems.
His great message is freedom for each person to develop. He hated slavery, black slavery on the plantations. white slavery in the factories.