Frank Davis Memorial Lecture series: Fuseli and the Graphic Body

Fools, Heroes and Whores: Henry Fuseli’s Switzerland

Speaker: Professor Camilla Smith - Associate Professor, Art History, Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies, University of Birmingham.

Swiss-born Henry Fuseli was continually branded ‘foreign’, ‘odd’ and an ‘outsider’ by contemporaries. To a degree, this image was also cultivated by the artist himself. This paper explores Fuseli’s Swiss roots. It focuses in particular on drawings taken from his Jugendalbum (Youth Album) now housed in the Kunsthaus Zürich. It explores the type of place Zürich was – its cultural traditions, religious beliefs and social attitudes – in order to explain why patriotic, religious and sexual themes feature prominently in the artist’s formative works. In doing so, it hopes to draw parallels between Fuseli’s attitude towards institutions in both Zürich and London. It argues that we should seek to recognise and reclaim the ‘Füssli’ in the work of Fuseli, whose Anglicisation of his name did not simply mean an eradication of his Swiss past. 

Camilla Smith is Associate Professor in Art History at the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies at the University of Birmingham, where she is also currently Head of Department. She specialises in modern art from Germany and Austria, and eighteenth-century Swiss culture. Articles on erotic print culture and drawings have featured in Oxford Art Journal and Art History, and an article on German sexual science and art history is forthcoming in The Art Bulletin next year. A monograph on the New Objectivity artist, Jeanne Mammen, which explores what it was like to produce art under the radar in National Socialist Berlin, is published by Bloomsbury. Her articles on Fuseli have focussed on both his erotic and early childhood drawings, and are interested in teasing out how his work flouted social norms and conventions, and what, if anything, is particularly ‘Swiss’ about his imagery.

Organised by Dr Ketty Gottardo (The Courtauld) and Professor David Solkin (The Courtauld) as part of the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture series ‘Fuseli and the Graphic Body‘. 

This event has passed.

22 Nov 2022

Tuesday 22nd November 2022, 6pm - 7.30pm GMT

Free, booking essential

Vernon Square campus, Lecture Theatre 2

This is an in person event. Registration will close 30 minutes before the event begins.


Drawing depicting the top half of a man's body. He wears a hat pulled down over one eye with a feathered arrow piercing it.
Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), William Tell, Around 1750, Pen and brown ink, with brown, pink and grey wash, over some graphite.154 x 136 mm. Zentralbibliothek Zürich

Fools, Heroes and Whores: Henry Fuseli’s Switzerland