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Analysis Of Henry Fuselis Piece Of Art That He Drew In 1781 And Named It "The Nightmare" (Essay Sample)

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ANALYSIS OF HENRY FUSELI'S PIECE OF ART THAT HE DREW IN 1781 AND NAMED IT "THE NIGHTMARE"

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Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781
Name
Institution
Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare,1781
Introduction
The Nightmare, which is a painting of 1781, was painted by Henry Fuseli. It’s an oil painting that shows a middle-aged woman in a very deep sleep. She is not covered in any bedding and has her hands hanging from her bed’s edge. Her head as well is hanging over her bed’s edge. On top of her is an Ape that is hard to differentiate whether it’s a monkey or it’s a baboon, and it looks very demonic. There is also the presence of a dark horse with white eyes facing the direction at which her head and hands are hanging. It also looks like its observing from a distance what the Ape is up to. At the background of the lady, the ape sitting on her and the horse, there is a maroon background which depicts the fact that her house could have been partitioned by using velvets with her bedroom having a maroon one. She has on a white, flair night dress.
Henry Fuseli’s Biography
Henri Fuseli was born in 1741 and his full names are Johann Heinrich Henry Fuseli who was the son of a portraitist by the name Johann Caspar Fussli who died in 1782 just one year after the painting was made ("The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli: Analysis", 2017). Fuseli had a wild desire on drawing and painting and his talent was eminent. Before he moved to London at the age of 23, he had displayed to those around him that he got the talent and many of his friends were convinced that he would be a great artist. While at London, he met a friend called Joshua Reynolds who encouraged him the more about his drawing talent. It did not take long after that when Reynolds was elected as the very first president of the Royal Academy of Arts. This made Fuseli take up painting, and he stayed in Italy for a better part of the 1770s to advance his painting career/talent. While at Italy, he studied figure painting and this became an inspiration in his life ("The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli: Analysis", 2017). There is no other piece of work that inspired him more that this (Lubbock, 2017). He had a very strong imaginative skill and he translated this imagination into painting. This is how he arrived at the world-famous painting “The Nightmare” that he painted in 1781. He also became a professor who taught on paintings at the Royal Academy of Arts.
The painting, history, and analysis of the work
Even though the painting was finalized in 1781, it first came to the public eye the following year. This was during the yearly exhibition that occurred/took place at the Royal Academy where he was a professor of painting. It captured the attention of many viewers who came to the exhibition that year. Most of the people admired it and as a result, his reputation was established in London and many recognized him as one of the most creative painters in London. This made many other painters such as Thomas Burke offer a helping hand in order to make the painting more popular. This was through engraving the picture and selling it at a low price. In order to also make it more popular, Henry also made three other versions of “The Nightmare” which were distributed to various places and even one is presently at the Goethe Museum (Lubbock, 2017).
Fuseli, fell in love with a woman by the name Anna Landholdt while he was traveling across Europe. He was so in love with her and wanted to marry her. He described to his friend named Lavater of how he felt about Anna. It the happened that his marriage proposal was disapproved by Anna’s father and he learned that she had gotten married by a family friend soon after his proposal was disapproved by Anna’s father. This broke his heart and it is believed that this is what made him paint the picture. H. W Janson who is an art historian suggested that this was a Fuseli’s personal love life portrayed in the painting. He said that the lady who is helplessly asleep is Anna Landholdt and the Ape on top of her is Fuseli ("The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli: Analysis", 2017). Other scholars describe the painting as one that is sexual and that the woman is lying in a sexually receptive position. Marcia Allentuck argues that the painting portrays a woman who just achieved orgasm and that the intention of the painter was to show female orgasm and the Ape on her is a representative of Male Libido. The sexual act is then shown when the horse comes through the curtain to check out what was going on in the room.
Stylistic Characteristics of the Author
Taking the picture literally from its name “the nightmare”, the ugly looking ape that is seated on top of the sleeping helpless woman could be a visual representation of what the lady is seeing in her sleep and it has literally nothing to do with her physical life (meaning the Ape seated on her is not physical but spiritual) because even demons are not physical (Lubbock, 2017). This meant that it was there figuratively to torment her in all aspects of her life and that’s the reason why she seems very helpless. The horse that just came into the room through the curtain also represents a spirit that has been deployed to torment and cause more horror to the woman. The dark maroon background gives an illusion that the whole thing is a dream and the whole content supports the fact that it’s not just a dream but a nightmare (Lubbock, 2017).
Reflection on the analysis
Following the tales about the love life of the painter, and also the analysis of the painting by various scholars who lived at the time of the painter, I think that another interpretation that could be given to the painting is that because Fuseli was so much in love with her that he often described that relationship as one that is fused in both body and soul and that he has poured his soul into her, then the Ape is Fuseli’s representation, and the lady who is asleep is Anna Landholdt, the horse represents the family friend who married the lady. The horse watches from afar as the Ape enjoys the company of the lady and seems so comfortable and at home at the lady’s presence even though the lady doesn’t know th...
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