Exhibition | Fuseli and the Modern Woman

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 7, 2022

Henry Fuseli, Sophia Fuseli, Her Hair in Large Rolls, with Pink Gloves, in Front of a Brown Curtain, detail, 1790
(Kunsthaus Zürich, Collection of Prints and Drawings)

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From The Courtauld:

Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism
The Courtauld Gallery, London, 14 October 2022 — 8 January 2023
Kunsthaus Zürich, 24 February – 21 May 2023

One of the most original and eccentric artists of the 18th century, Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) will be the subject of a new exhibition at The Courtauld, opening 14 October 2022.

Henry Fuseli, Half-length Figure of a Courtesan with Feathered Head-dress, ca. 1800–10 (Kunsthaus Zürich, Collection of Prints and Drawings).

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Fuseli spent a formative period in Rome in the 1770s before settling in London, where he was elected Professor of Painting at The Royal Academy and served for 21 years as Keeper of the RA Schools, working and living at Somerset House in what is now The Courtauld Gallery.

While Fuseli was famous in his lifetime for stylised paintings depicting fantastic and supernatural scenes drawn from his imagination and literature, The Courtauld’s exhibition explores an altogether different dimension to his art. Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism will reveal the artist’s secret lifelong obsession with the female figure through fifty of his strange and striking private drawings, many of which depict the spectacularly extravagant hairdos and fashions of the day. The exhibition will explore Fuseli’s fascination with female sexuality and the modern woman—as a figure of mystery, transgression, and dangerous allure—and provides an insight into late 18th- and early 19th-century anxieties about gender, identity, and sexuality during a transformative period in European history.

Organised in collaboration with the Kunsthaus Zürich, the exhibition will showcase drawings brought together from international collections. Following its presentation at The Courtauld, the exhibition will travel to Zürich, the city where Fuseli was born.

The catalogue is published by PHP and distributed by The University of Chicago Press:

David Solkin, ed., with contributions by Jonas Beyer, Mechthild Fend, and Ketty Gottardo, Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2022), 168 pages, ISBN: 978-1913645298, £30 / $40.

Best known for his notoriously provocative painting The Nightmare, Fuseli energetically cultivated a reputation for eccentricity, with vividly stylised images of supernatural creatures, muscle-bound heroes, and damsels in distress. While these convinced some viewers of the greatness of his genius, others dismissed him as a charlatan, or as completely mad.

Fuseli’s contemporaries might have thought him even crazier had they been aware that in private he harboured an obsessive preoccupation with the figure of the modern woman, which he pursued almost exclusively in his drawings. Where one might have expected idealised bodies with the grace and proportions of classical statues, here instead we encounter figures whose anatomies have been shaped by stiff bodices, waistbands, puffed sleeves, and pointed shoes, and whose heads are crowned by coiffures of the most bizarre and complicated sort. Often based on the artist’s wife Sophia Rawlins, the women who populate Fuseli’s graphic work tend to adopt brazenly aggressive attitudes, either fixing their gaze directly on the viewer or ignoring our presence altogether. Usually they appear on their own, in isolation on the page; sometimes they are grouped together to form disturbing narratives, erotic fantasies that may be mysterious, vaguely menacing, or overtly transgressive, but where women always play a dominant role. Among the many intriguing questions raised by these works is the extent to which his wife Sophia was actively involved in fashioning her appearance for her own pleasure, as well as for the benefit of her husband.

By bringing together more than fifty of these studies (roughly a third of the known total), The Courtauld Gallery will give audiences an unprecedented opportunity to see one of the finest Romantic-period draughtsmen at his most innovative and exciting. Visitors to the show and readers of the lavishly illustrated catalogue will further be invited to consider how Fuseli’s drawings of women, as products of the turbulent aftermath of the American and French Revolutions, speak to concerns about gender and sexuality that have never been more relevant than they are today.

The exhibition showcases drawings brought together from international collections, including the Kunsthaus Zürich, in Zurich, the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand, and from other European and North American institutions.

David Solkin is Emeritus Professor at The Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
Jonas Beyer is Curator of Drawings at the Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich.
Mechthild Fend is Professor of Art History at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main.
Ketty Gottardo is Martin Halusa Curator of Drawings at The Courtauld Gallery, London.

Exhibition | Füssli: The Realm of Dreams and the Fantastic

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on September 7, 2022

Henry Fuseli, The Dream of Queen Catherine of Aragon (Shakespeare, Henry VIII, Act 4, Scene 2), detail, 1781, oil on canvas, 147 × 211 cm
(Borough of Fylde, Lancashire: Lytham St Annes Art Collection, no. 52).

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Opening this month at the Musée Jacquemart-André:

Füssli: The Realm of Dreams and the Fantastic / Füssli, entre rêve et fantastique
Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 16 September 2022 — 23 January 2023

Curated by Christopher Baker and Andreas Beyer

This autumn discover the oeuvre of the Swiss-born British painter Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741–1825). Comprising sixty works from public and private collections, the exhibition presents a selection of the most emblematic of works by Füssli, the artist of the imaginary and the sublime. From Shakespearean themes to representations of dreams, nightmares, and apparitions, and mythological and Biblical illustrations, Füssli forged a new aesthetic that shifted between reality and the fantastic.

Henry Fuseli, Self-Portrait, 1780s, black and white chalk on buff paper (London: V&A Museum, E.1028-1918).

The son of a painter and art historian, Henry Füssli was trained as a priest and started his artistic career relatively late, during a first trip to London, where he was influenced by the President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds. After a long stay in Italy, during which he was especially fascinated by the power of Michelangelo’s works, he settled in London at the end of the 1770s. An atypical and intellectual artist, Füssli drew his inspiration from the literary sources that he interpreted imaginatively. In his paintings he developed a dreamlike and dramatic pictorial language, with its blend of the marvellous and the fantastic, the sublime and the grotesque.

Come explore Füssli’s oeuvre, which has not been the subject of a monographic exhibition in Paris since 1975: from works that represent Shakespeare’splays (particularly Macbeth), onto those depicting mythological and biblical tales, the female figures represented in his graphic works and the themes of nightmares, a truly Füselian obsession, dreams, and apparitions.

Füssli developed a fantastic vein that was quite marginal at the time, as it distorted academic rules. In 1782, he presented his first version of Nightmare, an emblematic work drawn from his imagination that truly established his career as a painter. Elected Associate Member of the Royal Academy in 1788, and Academician in 1790, Füssli, while working in a serial fashion, embodied the quest for the sublime that was all the rage in England at the time.

Discover the striking works of the artist—works that are all too rare in French collections—by a highly original painter whose oeuvre was paradoxical, inspired by an imagination in which terror and horror were combined, forming the aesthetic origins of Dark Romanticism (‘romantisme noir’).

Christopher Baker and Andreas Beyer, et al., Füssli, entre rêve et fantastique (Brussels: Fonds Mercator, 2022), 208 pages, €40.

In addition, works from the exhibition are featured in a 44-page special edition of Connaissance des Arts (€11) and an 84-page special edition of Beaux-Arts magazine (€14).

More information is included in the full press packet.

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