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"Born in 1757, the son of a London hosier, William Blake - poet, painter, and engraver - possessed one of the most original and fertile creative geniuses of his age. Yet his strange aloofness and claims of supernatural visions caused many in his own time and since to doubt his sanity, and much of his astonishing poetry and visual art remains unfamiliar. Now, Peter Ackroyd gives us a biography of the enigmatic eighteenth-century master, clarifying at last the true nature of Blake's extraordinary life and art." "Ackroyd's narrative traces Blake's progression from his childhood in a Dissenting household, through his apprenticeship as an engraver and his studies at the newly formed Royal Academy Schools, to his full maturity, during which he produced his great masterpieces - Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Jerusalem, and Milton, to name only a few - works that were as neglected during his lifetime as they are celebrated today." "Re-creating time and place as only he can, Ackroyd locates Blake in the complex context of his external world - a cross section of eighteenth-century London inflamed by various forms of radicalism, mysticism, and sexual magic, squarely opposed to the age's prevailing faith in rationalism. But he also shows us the cockney visionary as the creator of his own lavish interior world, a universe filled with angels and spirits. It is in Blake's utterly unique art that these two worlds meet, as Ackroyd reveals in his dazzling interpretations of Blake's poetry and the many paintings and engravings beautifully reproduced in this volume."--Jacket.
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