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Biography for Henry Fuseli

Also known as:
Born:1741 - Zurich, Switzerland
Died:1825 - Putney Heath, England


Fuseli's father was a portrait and landscape painter in Zurich. At the age of 20, Fuseli was ordained as a priest. In 1763 he went to Berlin, and the following year came to England, where he worked as a book illustrator until 1769. Then he travelled to Rome, where he moved in a circle of neo-classical artists, among whom was the celebrated Swedish sculptor, Tobias Sergel (1740-1814). Returning to England Fuseli exhibited at the Royal Academy, and in 1790 was elected a Royal Academician (RA). In 1799 he was appointed Professor of Painting at the Academy.
Fuseli was influenced by the work of Michelangelo which he saw in Rome, and he developed a style in which the human figure is the only means of expression. Ghosts and witches appear frequently in his work, and he was inspired both by English folk superstition as well as by classical authors and writers, such as Shakespeare and Milton. One of his most celebrated and terrifying visions is The Nightmare of 1781 (Detroit Institute of Art), in which a spirit of horrible appearance, squats on the stomach of a sleeping girl.

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