Henry Fuseli, Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking, c. 1783.
With almost seventy paintings, the first comprehensive monographic exhibition of the work of the Swiss-born artist Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) at the Kunstmuseum Basel turns the spotlight on two of his most important sources of inspiration: literature and the stage.
Fuseli’s entire oeuvre is steeped in his engagement with the canon of great literature he began to explore during his student years in Zurich. He borrows motifs from ancient mythology, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, or Shakespeare’s dramas and stages them in “theatrical” tableaus: highly effective compositions in which hard lighting throws the strained and contorted bodies of his heroes and virgins into sharp relief, while visions of specters, fallen angels, fairies, and other supernatural apparitions make for spectacular and often lugubrious fantastic scenes. Spanning the shift from classicism to Romanticism, Fuseli’s art jettisons convention to unfurl a panorama of his idiosyncratic imagination.
(Photo © RMN Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski)