(b Zurich, 6 Feb. 1741; d Putney, Surrey [now in London], 16 Apr. 1825). Swiss-born painter, draughtsman, and writer on art, active mainly in England, where he was one of the outstanding figures of the Romantic movement. He was the son of a portrait painter, Johann Caspar Füssli (1706–82), but he originally trained as a Zwinglian minister; he took holy orders in 1761, but soon abandoned the priesthood. In 1764 he moved to London at the suggestion of the British ambassador in Berlin, who had been impressed by his drawings. Reynolds encouraged him to take up painting, and he spent the years 1770–8 in Italy, engrossed in the study of Michelangelo, whose elevated style he sought to emulate for the rest of his life. After his return to England in 1779 he exhibited highly imaginative works such as The Nightmare (1781, Detroit Inst.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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