Gourmet Fair

The Fantastical and Haunting Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825), The Nightmare, 1810, oil on canvas, 75cm x 95 cm, private collection. Photo courtesy Musée Jacquemart-André. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Paris, France — These works are fantastic, at times horrific, nightmarish but hauntingly uplifting for despite the pervasive dark shadows light streams in  through the tunnel of the obscure. The works of Swiss-born British artist Henry Fuseli, (Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1741– 1825), explore diverse aspects of our psyche, particularly the world of dreams and often use myth, legend and literature as a point of departure. The Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris is showcasing his works in an exhibition entitled Füssli, the Realm of Dreams and the Fantastic bringing together 60 works from public and private collections ranging from the Louvre to the Tate, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to the Victoria & Albert Museum. The fascinating, unique world that he forged never ceases to fascinate. He himself was fascinated with the Shakespearean tragedies, a fascination that emerges in his beautifully crafted paintings of Romeo at Juliet’s Deathbed or Lady Macbeth Seizing the Daggers. He would execute nine canvases in the late 18th century illustrating scenes from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and Macbeth. 

Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825), The Shepherd’s Dream, 1793, oil on canvas, 154.3 x 215.3 cm, Tate Britain, London, photo: Tate. Photo courtesy Musée Jacquemart-André. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

He was also quite the man of letters well versed in the Bible and Nordic mythology a case in point being his Thor Fighting Against the Midgard Serpent. But nightmares and witchcraft would play a role in some of his most memorable works. His famous Nightmare was first presented in 1781, potent, erotic and horrific it features a frightening  incubus on the stomach of a well-articulated woman in a clingy white nightgown with a horse (a night mare?) poking its head through the curtain behind the bed. The Gothic would go on to become key elements in his works which explored sacrificial rites and depicted demonic and mysterious creatures.

Dreams were synonymous with supernatural and magical beings for sleep was synonymous with unfathomable complexity. His Shepherd’s Dream depicts supernatural beings circling above a sleeping shepherd. The artist’s hybrid creatures, monsters, fairies and apparitions were not only highly original but immensely popular as well, not unlike the  great success of the epic Fantasy fiction genre in the 20th and 21st centuries. The artist was accorded the honor of being buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London next to Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great English portrait painter, engraver and essayist.

Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825), Thor Fighting Against the Midgard Serpent, 1790, oil on canvas, 133 x 94.6 cm, The Royal Academy of Arts, London © Royal Academy of Arts, London, photographer: John Hammond. Photo courtesy Musée Jacquemart-André. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The exhibition is running until January 23rd at the Musée Jacquemart-André which belongs to the French Institute and is housed in a 19th century mansion and which exhibits works of art created by famous Renaissance artists including Uccello, Bellini, Mantegna, and Della Robbia. The Dutch painters, Rembrandt, Hals, Ruysdaël, as well as the  great 18th-century French painters Boucher, Chardin, Fragonard and Vigée-Lebrun, are all on the agenda as well. The mansion and its permanent collections are also open to the general public. A boutique and delightful tea room and restaurant are located on the premises. ©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette. 158, boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris. Telephone:+ 33 (0) 1 45 62 11 59. http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com 

Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825), The Night-Hag Visiting Lapland Witches, 1796, oil on canvas, 101.6 x 126.4 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dist. RMN- Grand Palais / image of the MMA. Photo courtesy Musée Jacquemart-André. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

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