William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake's work is now considered seminal in the history of both poetry and the visual arts. Blake's prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the English language". His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced". Although he only once travelled any farther than a day's walk outside London over the course of his life, his creative vision engendered a diverse and symbolically rich corpus, which embraced 'imagination' as "the body of God", or "Human existence itself".
Considered mad for his idiosyncratic views by contemporaries, later criticism regards Blake highly for his expressiveness and creativity, as well as the philosophical and mystical undercurrents within his work. His paintings and poetry have been characterized as part of both the Romantic movement and "Pre-Romantic", for its largely having appeared in the 18th century. Reverent of the Bible but hostile to the Church of England, Blake was influenced by the ideals and ambitions of the French and American revolutions, as well as by such thinkers as Jacob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg.
Despite these known influences, the originality and singularity of Blake's work make him difficult to classify. The 19th century scholar William Rossetti characterised Blake as a "glorious luminary," and "a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors."