Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)

Johann Heinrich Füssli was born in Zurich in 1741; he moved to England in 1764 and later changed his name to Henry Fuseli. The London theatre, and in particular the productions of Shakespeare, charged his imagination and over the years he painted, etched and drew numerous scenes from the plays. He contributed nine paintings in the 1780s to Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery (scenes from Hamlet, Henry IV, Henry V, King Lear, Macbeth and The Tempest and three scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream). He later painted five pictures for Woodmason's Irish Gallery (1793), an enterprise designed to emulate in Dublin the success of Boydell's exhibition in London. Fuseli turned often to Shakespeare for his inspiration; Füssli pittore di Shakespeare: Pittura e teatro 1775-1825, the catalogue of the 1997 exhibition of Fuseli's Shakespeare paintings in Parma, Italy, lists 85 paintings, drawings, sketches and engravings drawn from the plays. After a prolific and successful career as an artist in England, he died in 1825.

Fuseli admired the Romantic poets, and many of his illustrations for Shakespeare and Milton--as well as a number of other poets and writers--reveal his love for the grotesque, the sublime, and the fantastic. He is best remembered for his influential painting The Nightmare and his fascination with the realm of the dream-world in his works.