Where we might expect to see eighteenth-century idealized bodies in the appealing poses and proportions of classical statues, instead we encounter women whose anatomies are defined by stiff bodices, waistbands, puffed sleeves and pointed shoes, and whose heads are crowned by coiffures of the most bizarre and complicated kind. Fuseli offers us not the submissive and eroticized nudes of painters such as Boucher, Fragonard or Ingres, but rather female figures who are strikingly challenging, self-confidently returning the viewer’s gaze or even ignoring them completely. In general, Fuseli presents his women as seemingly unapproachable, solo figures. When gathered together in groups, their activities may seem mysterious; in erotic scenes, meanwhile, the women appear to remain firmly in control.
Unquestionably, Fuseli’s interest in the female figure opened up new avenues for his draughtsmanship; indeed, the technical complexity of these drawings is exceeded by none of his other works in the medium. The exhibition and the accompanying catalogue examine the wide variety of women’s hairstyles, the role and presence of Sophia Rawlins in Fuseli’s work and the novel image of the powerful female figure, as well as the influence of the libertarian environment on the artist’s creative imagination.
The exhibition is curated by Dr Jonas Beyer and a close collaboration with The Courtauld, London.
Supported by the Elisabeth Weber Foundation, Boston Consulting Group and Albers & Co AG. The German catalogue was supported by the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation, Vaduz.