Room 3

Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli): tales told anew

Johann Heinrich Füssli: The Nightmare, 1790/91


Füssli with his vividly dramatic yet precisely composed and emotionally sincere paintings, is celebrated by the Sturm und Drang movement as a "true genius". He takes his subjects from literature, above all from the plays of Shakespeare. Depicting everyday matters and conventional themes holds no charms for Fuseli; rather, his interests lie in the limits of the psyche ("Mad Kate"), the imagination and dreams. His most famous picture is of the "Nightmare" which torments a sleeping girl. Goethe expresses his enthusiasm in 1775 for such "passion and profound wrath".



Johann Heinrich Füssli:
Mad Kate, 1806/07

Although the 'Classicist' Goethe later turns away from the flamboyant Swiss-born British artist, he acknowledges Fuseli as a "mannerist of genius". For his own part Fuseli regards himself as an historical painter who ventures into the mysterious realm of "the fantastic".


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