Henry Fuseli RA (German: Johann Heinrich Füssli; 7 February 1741 – 17 April 1825) was a Swiss painter, draughtsman and writer on art who spent much of his life in Britain. Many of his works, such as The Nightmare, deal with supernatural subject-matter. He painted works for John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, and created his own "Milton Gallery". He held the posts of Professor of Painting and Keeper at the Royal Academy. His style had a considerable influence on many younger British artists, including William Blake.
Henry Fuseli, 1778. Portrait by James Northcote.
Johann Heinrich Füssli
7 February 1741
|Died||17 April 1825 (aged 84)|
Putney Hill, London
|Known for||painting, draughtsmanship|
Sophia Rawlins (m. 1788)
Fuseli was born in Zürich, Switzerland, the second of 18 children. His father was Johann Caspar Füssli, a painter of portraits and landscapes, and author of Lives of the Helvetic Painters. He intended Henry for the church, and sent him to the Caroline college of Zurich, where he received an excellent classical education. One of his schoolmates there was Johann Kaspar Lavater, with whom he became close friends.
After taking orders in 1761 Fuseli was forced to leave the country as a result of having helped Lavater to expose an unjust magistrate, whose powerful family sought revenge. He travelled through Germany, and then, in 1765, visited England, where he supported himself for some time by miscellaneous writing. Eventually, he became acquainted with Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom he showed his drawings. Following Reynolds' advice, he decided to devote himself entirely to art. In 1770 he made an art-pilgrimage to Italy, where he remained until 1778, changing his name from Füssli to the more Italian-sounding Fuseli.
Early in 1779 he returned to Britain, taking in Zürich on his way. In London he found a commission awaiting him from Alderman Boydell, who was then setting up his Shakespeare Gallery. Fuseli painted a number of pieces for Boydell, and published an English edition of Lavater's work on physiognomy. He also gave William Cowper some valuable assistance in preparing a translation of Homer. In 1788 Fuseli married Sophia Rawlins (originally one of his models), and he soon after became an associate of the Royal Academy. The early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, whose portrait he had painted, planned a trip with him to Paris, and pursued him determinedly, but after Sophia's intervention the Fuselis' door was closed to her forever. Fuseli later said "I hate clever women. They are only troublesome". In 1790 he became a full Academician, presenting Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent as his diploma work. In 1799 Fuseli was appointed professor of painting to the Academy. Four years later he was chosen as Keeper, and resigned his professorship, but resumed it in 1810, continuing to hold both offices until his death. As Keeper, he was succeeded by Henry Thomson.
In 1799 Fuseli exhibited a series of paintings from subjects furnished by the works of John Milton, with a view to forming a Milton gallery comparable to Boydell's Shakespeare gallery. There were 47 Milton paintings, many of them very large, completed at intervals over nine years. The exhibition proved a commercial failure and closed in 1800. In 1805 he brought out an edition of Pilkington's Lives of the Painters, which did little for his reputation.
As a painter, Fuseli favoured the supernatural. He pitched everything on an ideal scale, believing a certain amount of exaggeration necessary in the higher branches of historical painting. In this theory he was confirmed by the study of Michelangelo's works and the marble statues of the Monte Cavallo, which, when at Rome, he liked to contemplate in the evening, relieved against a murky sky or illuminated by lightning.
Describing his style, the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica said that:
His figures are full of life and earnestness, and seem to have an object in view which they follow with intensity. Like Rubens he excelled in the art of setting his figures in motion. Though the lofty and terrible was his proper sphere, Fuseli had a fine perception of the ludicrous. The grotesque humour of his fairy scenes, especially those taken from A Midsummer-Night's Dream, is in its way not less remarkable than the poetic power of his more ambitious works.
Though not noted as a colourist, Fuseli was described as a master of light and shadow. Rather than setting out his palette methodically in the manner of most painters, he merely distributed the colours across it randomly. He often used his pigments in the form of a dry powder, which he hastily combined on the end of his brush with oil, or turpentine, or gold size, regardless of the quantity, and depending on accident for the general effect. This recklessness may perhaps be explained by the fact that he did not paint in oil until the age of 25.
Fuseli painted more than 200 pictures, but he exhibited only a small number of them. His earliest painting represented "Joseph interpreting the Dreams of the Baker and Butler"; the first to excite particular attention was The Nightmare, exhibited in 1782. He painted two versions, shown in the Nightmare article. Themes seen in The Nightmare were repeated in his 1796 painting, Night-Hag visiting the Lapland Witches.
His sketches or designs numbered about 800; they have admirable qualities of invention and design, and are frequently superior to his paintings. In his drawings, as in his paintings, his method included deliberately exaggerating the proportions of the human body and throwing his figures into contorted attitudes. One technique involved setting down arbitrary points on a sheet, which then became the extreme points of the various limbs. Notable examples of these drawings were made in concert with George Richmond when the two artists were together in Rome. He rarely drew the figure from life, basing his art on study of the antique and Michelangelo. He produced no landscapes—"Damn Nature! she always puts me out," was his characteristic exclamation—and painted only two portraits.
In 1788 Fuseli started to write essays and reviews for the Analytical Review. With Thomas Paine, William Godwin, Joseph Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and others interested in art, literature and politics, Fuseli frequented the home of Joseph Johnson, a publisher and prominent figure in radical British political and intellectual life. He also visited Allerton Hall in Liverpool, the home of William Roscoe.
When Louis XVI was executed in France in 1793, Fuseli condemned the revolution as despotic and anarchic, although he had first welcomed it as a sign of "an age pregnant with the most gigantic efforts of character".
He was a thorough master of French, Italian, English and German, and could write in all these languages with equal facility and vigour, although he preferred German as the vehicle of his thoughts. His principal work was his series of twelve lectures delivered to the Royal Academy, begun in 1801.
His pupils included John Constable, Benjamin Haydon, William Etty, and Edwin Landseer. William Blake, who was 16 years his junior, recognized a debt to him, and for a time many English artists copied his mannerisms.
After a life of uninterrupted good health he died at the house of the Countess of Guildford on Putney Hill, at the age of 84, and was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral. He was comparatively wealthy at the time of his death.
|Fuseli's Titania and Bottom, Smarthistory|
Events from the year 1781 in art.1782 in art
Events from the year 1782 in art.Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson
Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson (1813 – 1906) was an Anglo-Indian barrister, spiritualist, socialist and amateur architect.
After three years at school, Peterson ran away to sea, working at a salt works in India. Returning to England, he trained as a lawyer and married Charlotte Myers St Clair, daughter of a colonel in the Royal Artillery. In 1846 he left to practice law at the Supreme Court in Calcutta. Retiring in the 1870s, he bought land near Sway, Hampshire, building and extending his house, Arnewood Towers, "from a small villa into a commodious country residence of somewhere near forty rooms, with the necessary outbuildings, built entirely of concrete".Becoming a convert to spiritualism, Peterson met an uneducated sensitive called William Lawrence. After Lawrence had completed a three-month sentence for fraudulent imposture at Coldbath Fields prison, he became Peterson's personal medium, channelling spirit messages from 'controls' including Pythagoras, Aesop, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle, Brutus, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, Martin Luther, John Knox, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Thomas Paine. In late 1877 Lawrence also served as the channel for 'Spiritual drawings' from William Blake and Henry Fuseli.Sir Christopher Wren, through Lawrence, directed Peterson to build a large concrete tower in Sway: foundation work began in 1879, and in 1886 the tower was completed, at a height of 218 feet and a cost of £30,000. It remains the world's tallest non-reinforced concrete structure.Boydell Shakespeare Gallery
The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery in London, England, was the first stage of a three-part project initiated in November 1786 by engraver and publisher John Boydell in an effort to foster a school of British history painting. In addition to the establishment of the gallery, Boydell planned to produce an illustrated edition of William Shakespeare's plays and a folio of prints based upon a series of paintings by different contemporary painters. During the 1790s the London gallery that showed the original paintings emerged as the project's most popular element.
The works of William Shakespeare enjoyed a renewed popularity in 18th-century Britain. Several new editions of his works were published, his plays were revived in the theatre and numerous works of art were created illustrating the plays and specific productions of them. Capitalising on this interest, Boydell decided to publish a grand illustrated edition of Shakespeare's plays that would showcase the talents of British painters and engravers. He chose the noted scholar and Shakespeare editor George Steevens to oversee the edition, which was released between 1791 and 1803.
The press reported weekly on the building of Boydell's gallery, designed by George Dance the Younger, on a site in Pall Mall. Boydell commissioned works from famous painters of the day, such as Joshua Reynolds, and the folio of engravings proved the enterprise's most lasting legacy. However, the long delay in publishing the prints and the illustrated edition prompted criticism. Because they were hurried, and many illustrations had to be done by lesser artists, the final products of Boydell's venture were judged to be disappointing. The project caused the Boydell firm to become insolvent, and they were forced to sell the gallery at a lottery.Füssli
Füssli is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), Swiss-born British painter
Johann Caspar Füssli (1706–1782), Swiss portrait painter
Johann Kaspar Füssli (1743–1786), Swiss entomologistHarriet Jane Moore
Harriet Jane Carrick Moore (1801 – 6 March 1884) was a British watercolour artist who is best known for her drawings of Michael Faraday's work at the Royal Institution. She documented his apartment, study, and laboratory in a series of watercolour paintings in the early 1850s. Letters between Faraday and Moore survive at the Institution of Engineering and Technology. She was very good in watercolours as she started out when she was eight years old. It was her passion and she was a pretty lady indeed.
She, and her family, were close with the Swiss-born artist Henry Fuseli.She was the eldest of the five children of James Carrick Moore (1762–1840) and Harriet Henderson (1779–1866). She was the niece of Sir John Moore, a British army general in the Peninsular war.James Neagle
James Neagle (1760?–1822) was a British engraver. Very largely a line engraver of book illustrations, he was prolific of designs by Thomas Stothard, Robert Smirke, Henry Fuseli, Gavin Hamilton, Henry Singleton, Richard Cook, and other popular artists.Johann Kaspar Füssli
Johann Kaspar Füssli, also written Johann Caspar Fuesslins or Fuessly (9 March 1743 – 4 May 1786), was a Swiss painter, entomologist and publisher.
He was born in Zurich, the son of Johann Caspar Füssli (3 January 1706 – 6 May 1782) and Anna Elisabeth Waser. He was thus the brother of Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli) (3 December 1745 – 17 April 1825).
Verena Störi in 1770
Anna Elisabeth Kilchsperger in 1774.The only spider species he described (as Fuesslin, 1775) is the daddy long-legs spider, Pholcus phalangioides, also known as cellar spider.He died, aged 43, in Winterthur.John Knowles (author)
John Knowles (1781 – 21 July 1841) was the English biographer of Henry Fuseli, and author of works on Naval architecture.Liverpool Academy of Arts
The Liverpool Academy of Arts was founded in Liverpool in April 1810 as a regional equivalent of the Royal Academy, London. It followed the Liverpool Society of Artists, first founded in 1769, which had a fitful existence until 1794. Two local art collectors, Henry Blundell and William Roscoe were its first Patron and Secretary, the Prince Regent George gave his patronage for the next three years, and it was actively promoted by presidents of the Royal Academy.
Its membership included local artists such as the landscapists John Rathbone, Richard Ansdell, Thomas Chubbard, Alfred William Hunt and Charles Barber, and the sculptor John Gibson.
Leading artists of the day competed for its prize of £50 for non-local contributors to its annual exhibition, including J. M. W. Turner, Henry Fuseli, John Martin and Joseph Wright of Derby.
In the late 1850s, however, it split due to major disagreements following annual prizes being awarded to the then controversial Pre-Raphaelite painters, particularly to William Holman Hunt in 1852 for Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus and to Millais in 1857 for The Blind Girl.
The Academy remained nominally in existence, continuing to hold annual exhibitions, but never regaining its national importance.Lytham St Annes Art Collection
The Lytham St Annes Art Collection is a public art collection of over 240 artworks in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. Fylde Borough Council are the custodians of the paintings, sculptures, prints and artefacts that are mostly held within the Town Hall in St Annes. The collection was started in 1925 by the donation of The Herd Lassie, painted by Richard Ansdell, to the townspeople of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. It was donated by John Booth, son of the founder of the grocery store chain Booths. The collection is now one of the largest public collections of Ansdell's paintings.One of the most notable paintings in the collection is The Vision of Catherine of Aragon (also called Queen Katherine's Dream) by Henry Fuseli, which is estimated to be worth about £1.5-2 million, according to a 2013 valuation by Christie's, making it by far the most valuable item in the collection.In 2008 the Fylde Gallery was opened above the Booths grocery store in Lytham to display some of the collection, and it is periodically open to the public. In June 2013 the Fylde Decorative and Fine Arts Society was awarded £24,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to promote the collection.Moses Haughton the Younger
Moses Haughton (7 July 1773 – 26 June 1849) was an English engraver and painter, often of miniatures.Sir Brooke Boothby, 6th Baronet
Sir Brooke Boothby, 6th Baronet (3 June 1744 – 23 January 1824) was a linguist, translator, poet and landowner, based in Derbyshire, England. He was part of the intellectual and literary circle of Lichfield, which included Anna Seward and Erasmus Darwin. In 1766 he welcomed the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Ashbourne circles, after Rousseau's short stay in London with Hume. Ten years later, in 1776, Boothby visited Rousseau in Paris, and was given the manuscript of the first part of Rousseau's three-part autobiographic Confessions. Boothby translated the manuscript and published it in Lichfield in 1780 after the author's death, and donated the document to the British Library in 1781.
The well-known portrait of Boothby by Joseph Wright of Derby, from 1781, shows him reclining in a wooded glade with a book carrying on its cover simply the name Rousseau, indicating Boothby's admiration and promotion of the writer and his work generally.Several portraits were also made of Boothby's daughter, Penelope — by Henry Fuseli and Joshua Reynolds and in sculpture by Thomas Banks. She died young, and was the subject of a book of poetry by her grieving father.The Artist's Despair Before the Grandeur of Ancient Ruins
The Artist's Despair Before the Grandeur of Ancient Ruins (German: Der Künstler verzweifelnd vor der Grösse der antiken Trümmer) is a drawing in red chalk with brown wash executed between 1778-1780 by Johann Heinrich Füssli. It depicts an artist's response to ruins, namely those of the Colossus of Constantine at the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The work was acquired by the Kunsthaus Zürich in 1940.The artist's despair may be caused by "the impossibility of emulating the greatness of the past", by the knowledge that all things must decay, or by a sense of unfulfilled longing and dislocation. Distortions of perspective and the "plunge into the abyss" along the right edge conjure up a sense of nightmare. SPQR may be read in the inscription on the base of the foot, while vegetation sprouts up near the hand; the artist, in a "fit of melancholy", is dwarfed by the fragments of the past.The Nightmare
The Nightmare is a 1781 oil painting by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli. It shows a woman in deep sleep with her arms thrown below her, and with a demonic and apelike incubus crouched on her chest.
The painting's dreamlike and haunting erotic evocation of infatuation and obsession was a huge popular success. After its first exhibition, at the 1782 Royal Academy of London, critics and patrons reacted with horrified fascination and the work became widely popular, to the extent that it was parodied in political satire and an engraved version was widely distributed. In response, Fuseli produced at least three other versions.
Interpretations vary. The canvas seems to portray simultaneously a dreaming woman and the content of her nightmare. The incubus and horse's head refer to contemporary belief and folklore about nightmares, but have been ascribed more specific meanings by some theorists. Contemporary critics were taken aback by the overt sexuality of the painting, since interpreted by some scholars as anticipating Jungian ideas about the unconscious.Theodor von Holst
Theodor Richard Edward von Holst (3 September 1810 – 14 February 1844) was a nineteenth-century British literary painter.
Von Holst was born in London, the fourth of the five children of Matthias and Katharina von Holst. Von Holst's drawing talents were noticed by the artist Henry Fuseli and Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence even bought drawings from the ten-year-old Von Holst. Fuseli trained the young man in early years, after which he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1824. According to Max Browne's biographical article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Von Holst's "early instruction by Fuseli exerted such a powerful influence on his artistic development that some of his work is almost indistinguishable from that of his master".Like Fuseli, Von Holst painted mostly famous literary subjects of European culture, but not current trends. He drew from the works of Virgil, Dante, William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, and Victor Hugo. Von Holst was the first artist to illustrate Shelley's novel Frankenstein in 1831. However, the German Romantics, particularly the works of Goethe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, were the basis of almost half his works. Von Holst became "the most prolific English illustrator of German Romance". As Browne explains, "while [von Holst's] exceptional imagination and draughtsmanship were widely praised, his choice of subjects were out of step with the age and public taste. His penchant for the demonic, supernatural, and erotic led to a degree of neglect that was otherwise undeserved."However, Von Holst exhibited 49 paintings at major exhibitions in London and sold portraits to collectors. Also, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, greatly admired Von Holst's work and according to Browne "considered him a significant link between the older generation of English Romantic painters, such as Fuseli and William Blake, and the Pre-Raphaelite circle".On 17 August 1841, Von Holst married Amelia Thomasina Symmes Villard in Marylebone.
Von Holst died from a disease of the liver at his home in London and was buried on 21 February 1844. After his death, his works were sold on 26 June 1844. The composer Gustav Holst, whose middle name was Theodore, was his grand-nephew.Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent
Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent is a 1790 painting by the Swiss artist Henry Fuseli. It depicts one of the most popular myths in Germanic mythology, Thor's fishing trip, which was known to Fuseli through P. H. Mallet's 1755 book Introduction à l'histoire du Dannemarc, translated to English by Thomas Percy in 1770 as Northern Antiquities. The nude and muscular Thor stands in Hymir's boat with the Jörmungandr on his fish hook.
The painting was Fuseli's diploma work for his election to the British Royal Academy of Arts in 1790. The subject has been interpreted in relation to Fuseli's support for the French Revolution, where the serpent could represent the Ancien Régime.Three Witches
The Three Witches, also known as the Weird Sisters or Wayward Sisters, are characters in William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (c. 1603–1607). They hold a striking resemblance to the three Fates of classical mythology, and are, perhaps, intended as a twisted version of the white-robed incarnations of destiny. The witches eventually lead Macbeth to his demise. Their origin lies in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland. Other possible sources, aside from Shakespeare's imagination, include British folklore, such contemporary treatises on witchcraft as King James VI of Scotland's Daemonologie, the Norns of Norse mythology, and ancient classical myths of the Fates: the Greek Moirai and the Roman Parcae. Productions of Macbeth began incorporating portions of Thomas Middleton's contemporaneous play The Witch circa 1618, two years after Shakespeare's death.
Shakespeare's witches are prophets who hail Macbeth, the general, early in the play, and predict his ascent to kingship. Upon killing the king and gaining the throne of Scotland, Macbeth hears them ambiguously predict his eventual downfall. The witches, and their "filthy" trappings and supernatural activities, set an ominous tone for the play.
Artists in the eighteenth century, including Henry Fuseli and William Rimmer, depicted the witches variously, as have many directors since. Some have exaggerated or sensationalised the hags, or have adapted them to different cultures, as in Orson Welles's rendition of the weird sisters as voodoo priestesses. Some film adaptations have cast the witches as such modern analogues as hippies on drugs, or goth schoolgirls. Their influence reaches the literary realm as well in such works as the Discworld and Harry Potter series.Timeline of Mary Wollstonecraft
The lifetime of British writer, philosopher, and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) encompassed most of the second half of the eighteenth century, a time of great political and social upheaval throughout Europe and America: political reform movements in Britain gained strength, the American colonists successfully rebelled, and the French revolution erupted. Wollstonecraft experienced only the headiest of these days, not living to see the end of the democratic revolution when Napoleon crowned himself emperor. Although Britain was still revelling in its mid-century imperial conquests and its triumph in the Seven Years' War, it was the French revolution that defined Wollstonecraft's generation. As poet Robert Southey later wrote: "few persons but those who have lived in it can conceive or comprehend what the memory of the French Revolution was, nor what a visionary world seemed to open upon those who were just entering it. Old things seemed passing away, and nothing was dreamt of but the regeneration of the human race."Part of what made reform possible in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century was the dramatic increase in publishing; books, periodicals, and pamphlets became much more widely available than they had been just a few decades earlier. This increase in available printed material helped facilitate the rise of the British middle class. Reacting against what they viewed as aristocratic decadence, the new professional middle classes (made prosperous through British manufacturing and trade), offered their own ethical code: reason, meritocracy, self-reliance, religious toleration, free inquiry, free enterprise, and hard work. They set these values against what they perceived as the superstition and unreason of the poor and the prejudices, censorship, and self-indulgence of the rich. They also helped establish what has come to be called the "cult of domesticity", which solidified gender roles for men and women. This new vision of society rested on the writings of Scottish Enlightenment philosophers such as Adam Smith, who had developed a theory of social progress founded on sympathy and sensibility. A partial critique of the rationalist Enlightenment, these theories promoted a combination of reason and feeling that enabled women to enter the public sphere because of their keen moral sense. Wollstonecraft's writings stand at the nexus of all of these changes. Her educational works, such as her children's book Original Stories from Real Life (1788), helped inculcate middle-class values, and her two Vindications, A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790) and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), argue for the value of an educated, rational populace, specifically one that includes women. In her two novels, Mary: A Fiction and Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman, she explores the ramifications of sensibility for women.
The end of the eighteenth century was a time of great hope for progressive reformers such as Wollstonecraft. Like the revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine and others, Wollstonecraft was not content to remain on the sidelines. She sought out intellectual debate at the home of her publisher Joseph Johnson, who gathered leading thinkers and artists for weekly dinners, and she traveled extensively, first to be a part of the French revolution and later to seek a lost treasure ship for her lover in what was then exotic Scandinavia, turning her journey into a travel book, Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. After two complicated and heart-rending affairs with the artist Henry Fuseli and the American adventurer Gilbert Imlay (with whom she had an illegitimate daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Together, they had one daughter: Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft died at the age of 38 due to complications from this birth, leaving behind several unfinished manuscripts. Today, she is most often remembered for her political treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and is considered a foundational feminist philosopher.