By: Adrianne Cooke
Henry Fuseli was born in Zurich, Switzerland, he was the second eldest of 18 children. His father, Johann Fussli, was a painter of portraits and landscapes. As well as the writer of “Lives of Helvetic Painters”. His father intended to give Henry to the church, and sent him to the Caroline College of Zurich where he received an excellent education. Whilst at school, he made a friend (Johann Lavater) whom would change quite a few things in his life.
After receiving orders in 1779 to leave the country for helping Lavater expose an unjust magistrate, whose family wanted revenge. He travelled through Germany and in 1765 visited England where he supported himself for a while by doing miscellaneous writings. He eventually came to know a man named Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom he showed his drawings. Following Reynolds advice he decided to concentrate entirely on art. In 1770 he made an art-pilgrimage to Italy, where he remained for 8 years, changing his name from Fussli to Fuseli to make him sound more Italian. In 1779 he returned to Britain, passing by Zurich along the way. In London he had a commission from Alderman Boydell; who was setting up his Shakespearean Gallery. Fuseli painted many pieces for Boydell and published an English edition of Lavaters work on physiognomy. In 1788 Fuseli married Sophia Rawlins (originally one of his models). In 1790 he became a full Academician, presenting Thor battering the Midgard Serpent as his diploma work.
As a painter, Fuseli favored the supernatural. He put everything on an “ideal scale”, believing a certain amount of exaggeration was necessary in historical painting. Fuseli painted more than 200 pictures, but showed only a small number of them. His first painting to receive attention was The Nightmare exhibited in 1782. Themes seen in “The Nightmare” were repeated in his 1796 Painting “the Night-Hag visiting the Lapland Witches. His sketches and designs numbered around 800, and are…