The Letter The Performance  

leer Henry Fuseli, painter (1741-1825)

Fuseli was born in Zurich on 7 February 1741, the second son of the eighteen children of Elisabeth Waser and Johann Caspar Füssli. Although educated as a theologian and ordained as a Zwinglian minister in 1761, Fuseli pursued a wide range of humanist studies, developing an enthusiasm for classical philology under the influence of Johann Jakob Breitinger, and becoming proficient in English, French, and Italian. He was introduced by Johann Jakob Bodmer, the mentor whom he most revered, to Homer, the Nibelungenlied, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton, later the principal sources of his art. His associations with the Sturm und Drang movement were close.
In 1762 he and his close friend and fellow theology student Johann Caspar Lavater published a pamphlet attacking a corrupt Zurich official. As a result of this action, the two found it expedient to leave the city. In 1763 they went to Berlin. In 1763, he moved to London at the suggestion of the British ambassador in Berlin, who had been impressed by his drawings.
Encouraged by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1768 to become a painter, Fuseli traveled to Italy in 1770 in the company of John Armstrong. He sought inspiration from classical sculpture, Michelangelo, and mannerist art. He studied in Rome 1770-78 under Anton Raffael Mengs, and was the centre of an international group of artists including Sergel, Banks, Runciman, Abildgaard, Romney, Northcote and John Brown.
Early in 1779 he returned to England, taking Zürich on his way. Returning to London in 1780, Fuseli established his reputation with The Nightmare. Involved from the outset in 1786 with John Boydell's scheme for employing the most talented artists of the day on a Shakespeare Gallery, he devoted most of his time to paintings of Shakespearean themes until the opening of the gallery in 1789. In emulation of this project, he executed during the 1790s forty-seven paintings for a Milton Gallery in which the work was entirely his. Although many of these works were bought by his principal patron, Thomas Coutts, the exhibitions in 1799 and 1800 were not a public success.
In 1788 Fuseli married Miss Sophia Rawlins, who was originally one of his models.
Fuseli was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1788, a full Academician in 1790, and Professor of Painting in 1799; he was obliged to relinquish the latter post after his election as Keeper in 1804, the year in which Benjamin Robert Haydon became his pupil, but the statutes were altered to allow him to resume it in 1810.
In his later years he was influential because of his writings and lectures on art history and theory.
Fuseli died at Putney Hill near London on April 16, 1825, at the age of eighty-four.

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