William Blake, oil on canvas by Thomas Phillips c. 1807, in the National Portrait Gallery, London
William Blake, oil on canvas by Thomas Phillips c. 1807, in the National Portrait Gallery, London

William Blake

(November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) An English poet, painter and printmaker.  Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.  His prophetic works have been said to form “what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language.” His visual artistry led one contemporary art critic to proclaim him “far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced.”  In 2002, Blake was placed at number 38 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.  Although he lived in London his (except for three years spent in Felpham), he produced a diverse and symbolically rich oeuvre, which embraced the imagination as “the body of God” or “human existence itself.”

Catherine Blake c. 1805, by William Blake
Catherine Blake c. 1805, by William Blake

Catherine Blake

(April 25, 1762 – October 31, 1831) Blake met and married Catherine Boucher in 1782.  Catherine – who was five years his junior – was illiterate when they met.  Later, in addition to teaching Catherine to read and write, Blake trained her as an engraver.  Throughout his life she proved an invaluable aid, helping to print his illuminated works and maintaining his spirits throughout numerous misfortunes.