Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Electric Fuseli

When I was at secondary school in London, I used to visit the Tate Gallery about once a month. I was fascinated by the Gothic nutters—Richard Dadd, who murdered his father (nominative determinism at play there) and painted his best work at Bedlam; watercolourist, engraver and poet William Blake; and Henry Fuseli.

Fuseli was Swiss but moved to England in his 30s. Much of his work is inspired by the darker elements of Shakespeare, Milton and classical mythology. His best-known piece is The Nightmare, in which a demon sits on the stomach of a sleeping woman. It received great praise when exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1782.

William Blake was no great fan of the Academy but had time for Fuseli, even though the Swiss artist was part of 'the Establishment'. Blake, who wrote visionary poetry, including Jerusalem, The Tyger and A Poison Tree, penned some lines to celebrate his friend. Of Fuseli, he said:

The only man that e'er I knew
Who did not make me want to spew


Who wouldn't want to spend their Sundays with these people?

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