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Henry Fuseli: Nightmarish

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Henry Fuseli: Nightmarish The Enlightenment in art history is best known for promoting reasoning and rationality just as much as it favored beauty and social progress. However, Henry Fuseli, who sought to portray human irrationality, often challenged Enlightenment ideals with his work (Cothren, Stockstad). Painted in 1771 and exhibited at the Royal Academy of London in 1772, Fuseli sought to make a name for himself with his composition The Nightmare (Tate). The painting leaves its audience with a dark sense of wonder and intrigue. Fuseli captured an audience during a time in which patrons had favored easily understood concepts over complex imagery drawn from history or mythology (Cothren, Stockstad). Fuseli pushed many boundaries and artistic expectations set in this period with sexually charged compositions and dark tones in narrative. Contentious for its time, The Nightmare is a classical painting which hinges upon Fuseli’s own sexual desires, potentially unrequited love, and folklore of the period. Certainly, Henry Fuseli’s romanticized gothic style both shocked and awed his audience. However, Fuseli did not always intend to be an artist. Though he was one of eighteen children with a father who devoted his life to both creating and collecting art, becoming an artist was not Henry Fuseli’s initial pursuit. Despite his art-rich upbringing, in the mid-1760’s, Fuseli moved to England from his hometown of Zürich, Switzerland in search of other achievements. Initially, Henry
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