Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Artists by Henry Fuseli

This delicate eighteenth century drawing of a lady artist overcome with the charms of her model is by Henry Fuseli, (1741-1825) a Swiss artist who settled in Britain.  Most known for his rather fantastical paintings, particularly illustrations of Milton, Shakespeare and the Nibelung legends, he also produced a number of beautifully rendered erotic drawings.

Fuseli was born Johann Heinrich Füssli in Zürich in 1741. His father was also a painter but his education was classical rather than in art, as it was his family's intention that he entered the Church.  He had to leave Switzerland, having exposed a corrupt but influential official.  He travelled in Germany and then arrived in England at the age of 24.  Supporting himself by writing (he spoke and wrote fluently in German, French, Italian and English) he was encouraged to pursue art as a career by Sir Joshua Reynolds who had been impressed by some of his drawings.

From 1770 to 1778 he stayed in Italy studying the great masters and changed his name to the more Italianate Fuseli as a tribute.  He returned to Britain in 1779.  In 1788 he married Sophia Rawlins who had been one of his models (although, on the whole Fuseli eschewed models and drew figures in the classical manner).  They moved into a house at 37 Foley Street in Bloomsbury, London, not far from one of Agent Triple P's former offices (which, sadly, now sits over a Dominos Pizza parlour.

We will look at the rest of Fusili's life when we examine some more of his drawings another time.

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