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Tittle: Essay on Henry Fuseli and Romanticism

Type: Essay

Subject: History




Henry Fuseli and Romanticism

Introduction of Henry Fuseli and Romanticism

In the second half of the eighteenth century, an alternative was expressed by English painters to the traditional and typical ideal of “flawless and beautiful.” This clear, harmonious, elegant, smooth, and ideal concept of beauty is typified by different works prevalent in different museums and art galleries. These works include conversation pieces, portraits, and fancy pictures created by artists like George Romney, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and Arthur Devis. The term “beautiful’ in the art was replaced by “sublime.” In addition to it, its seekers often explored the dreadful, irrational, and dark side of experience and nature. This movement was referred to as Romanticism and it philosophically and literary represented a change in the artistic sensibility. For instance, Britain’s peaceful harbors and quiet meadows were left by many painters for the untamed and unexplored areas of Scottish highlands.

A similar shift occurred in subject painting. It caused painters to portray the depiction of exciting and supernatural events in literature and history from the dreamlike world which was depicted by Rococo (Menhennet, 2018).

Short Biography of Henry Fuseli and Romanticism

In 1741, Henry Fuseli was born in Zurich and was named Johann Heinrich Fiissli. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that his brothers along with him possessed a high intellect. All of them of were taught in accordance with their predicted professions. Furthermore, the atmosphere existing in their house focused significantly on both radical and progressive ideals. And even though Fuseli was persuaded to work in the church by his father, he was educated in such a manner that nothing was impossible. For instance, he had learned five languages and when he was 8, he began to draw. Due to such focus and early development, he was capable of exhibiting exceptional critical and literary skills. At that time, travel was considered quite important, and almost an integral part of life. Therefore, he visited Germany when he was 22, where he became familiar with the work of experts and pioneers in romantic literature, art history, and philosophy of Germany. However, it cannot be considered the most important travel because the most influential travel was to London. In fact, it was influential enough to make him stay there for the remaining part of his life (Pop, 2015).

Talent of Henry Fuseli and Romanticism

The peculiar talents possessed by Fuseli and the emerging concept of Romanticism complemented each other. And as an artist, the sensibility and style of Fuseli had developed with representations of 16th century’s Mannerist art. In English literature, he was critically interested and with a number of English painters, he started to explore the Gothic or Dark side of Spenser, Milton, and Shakespeare. Generally, "beautiful" was depicted in these writers by artists of the first half of the eighteenth century. They were motivated by narrative, morally uplifting, and pastoral imagery. However, Henry Fuseli with James Barry, John Mortimer, and Alexander Runciman was attracted by Macbeth. Its content such as witches and ghosts attracted him more than the daylight pleasure of Arden Forest. All of these artists sought different types of vision which stimulated emotions such as terror and awe (Haut, 2015).

For instance, the scene of Fuseli completing his work in the Art Institute serves to illustrate a scene from Faerie Queen. It emphasizes the grotesque and sublime elements of Despayre Cave. In fact, it is an allegory of a suicide attempt which was made by Red Cross Knight and it was prevented by Una, the heroine. The elements of Despayre are drawn faithfully by no one other than Fuseli.

As the literary tradition was changed and artists began to look at it in a different manner, subject painting became critical to both patron and the painter. And even those painters associated with elegant portraitures such as Lawrence, Romney, and Reynolds, also practiced sublimity. If the Royal Academy painting of Lawrence in 1797 is to be criticized, it would be suggested that the results were quite ambiguous. It can be said that one result of this visual sensibility was the introduction of various commercial galleries which were based on different literary themes.

One of the most famous is Shakespeare Gallery which was developed in the second half of the eighteenth century. The majority of English painters submitted their paintings because the project eminence and the likelihood of financial profits through painting sales and engraving sales. Therefore, the resulting nature of this exhibition includes detailed documentation of sublime visions of Barry, Reynolds, and Fuseli. However, it is likely that Fuseli was not satisfied with the gallery’s eclectic nature.

Thus, for a long time, he depended significantly on the subscriptions which were forwarded by his companions while painting his cycle of Milton. Fuseli had been occupied by Miltonic subjects for various years. In particular, Paradise Lost combined the components of cost cast, extraordinary events, and a setting which enable an imaginative scope. In addition to it, the original intention includes engravings in parallel series to portray Milton’s edition which was planned by William Cowper. It is not surprising that some of the most renowned works in the gallery related to Satan’s activities. This character, after all, has been the most stimulating in the epic of Paradise Lost. Three canvases were by Fuseli which portrayed different scenes from the life of poet.