Jun 16, 2014

Henry Fuseli: The Gay Painter of the Romantic Era

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) was born Johann Heinrich F├╝ssli in Zurich, Switzerland.  He studied theology, but after publishing a pamphlet critical of the Swiss government, was forced to flee to Britain, where he fit in with the artists and writers of the Romantic Era, especially William Blake.

He specialized in mythological topics, including illustrations of Milton's Paradise Lost and Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, or Thor Battling the Midgard Serpent from Norse mythology (left).

Sometimes he seems to have quite a fetish interest.  Here the Germanic goddess Brunhilde has tied up a naked Gunther on their wedding night instead of having sex with him.

Ok, the scene happens in the Nibelungenlied, but still, it's a rather unusual topic for a painting, unless you're a bondage enthusiast.

Maybe Fuseli just wanted to show a naked guy not having sex with a woman.

He also drew pornographic drawings for private collectors, mostly of men having sex with each other, but sometimes of women together, and occasionally of men and women.

He often depicts men being accosted by predatory women.  Here Satan fights with the feminine Death (odd, because Death is a masculine noun in German, der Tod).

Gay in real life, Fusili put off marriage until he was 47, when he was too old to fuss with that "sex" stuff.  Later proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Women) got a crush on him, and proposed a "threesome" with his wife Sofia.  He refused and cut off all contact.

Fusili was neglected for many years, but today his work is in demand for its bold colors, surrealistic nightmare imagery, and gay themes.

See also: The Gay Romantic Era

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