Painter and writer Henry Fuseli was born Johann Heinrich Füssli at Zürich on 6 February 1741, the son of Johann Caspar Füssli, portrait painter and collector of Renaissance prints. Henry’s surviving juvenile productions include a cycle of Till Eulenspiegel illustrations and a series of imaginary portraits of Swiss artists and humanists. He studied literature and aesthetics under Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Breitinger, the intellectual progenitors of the Sturm und Drang movement.
In 1763 he travelled to Berlin to meet with leading figures of the Enlightenment. In spring 1764 Andrew Mitchell, the British chargé d’affaires in Berlin, took Fuseli to London, where he resided in Cranbourn Alley. His introduction to stage performances of Shakespeare made a deep impact. In spring 1768 Fuseli met Joshua Reynolds, who encouraged him to study in Rome. He returned to London in spring 1779 where he settled at no. 11 Broad Street, on the corner of Portland Street. Between 1780 and 1786 he exhibited twenty-one paintings at the Royal Academy which established his reputation as a history painter. In June 1788, Fuseli married Sophia Rawlins of Batheaston, over twenty years younger than him, of whom he executed a gallery of some 150 imaginery ‘portraits’ in pen and ink.
The couple lived at no. 72 Queen Ann Street East (now: Foley Street). He was elected Royal Academician in 1790 and Professor of Painting in 1799. In 1804 Fuseli also became Keeper of the Royal Academy, the only individual ever simultaneously to hold both positions, and took up residence at Somerset House. An intensely dramatic draughtsman, he was notorious for his demonic and bizarre subjects which led later Surrealists to claim him as a forerunner. He died in April 1825.