Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism

14 Oct 2022 – 8 Jan 2023
Denise Coates Exhibition Galleries

One of the most original and eccentric artists of the 18th century,  the Swiss-born Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) is the subject of a new exhibition at The Courtauld.

Fuseli spent most of his career in London, where he established himself as one of 18th century Europe’s most controversial artists. He deliberately courted notoriety with his most famous painting The Nightmare and other sensationalistic images inspired by a wide range of literature and his own imagination.

Fuseli was praised by some as a creative genius, while others dismissed his works as ‘shockingly mad’. But much admired by his colleagues, he became the Royal Academy’s Professor of Painting and Keeper of its premises at Somerset House, in what is now The Courtauld Gallery, where he and his wife Sophia Rawlins (1762/3–1832) lived from 1805 until his death.

This exhibition focuses on Fuseli’s numerous private drawings of the modern woman. Blending observed realities with elements of fantasy, these studies present one of the finest draughtsmen of the Romantic period at his most original and provocative. Here, the fashionable women of the period appear as powerful figures of dangerous erotic allure, whom the artist regards with a mix of fascination and mistrust. Perhaps as problematic then as now, this visually compelling body of work provides an insight into anxieties about gender, identity, and sexuality at a time of acute social instability, as the effects of the first modern revolutions – in America and in France – swept across Britain and the Continent. Many of those anxieties still speak vividly to us today.

Organised in collaboration with the Kunsthaus Zürich, the exhibition will showcase drawings brought together from international collections and will be accompanied by a catalogue presenting new research. Following its presentation at The Courtauld, the exhibition will travel to Zürich, the city where Fuseli was born.

Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism is supported by the International Music and Art Foundation and the Tavolozza Foundation, with additional support from James Bartos, and Olivier and Desiree Berggruen.

Please note that some works in this exhibition depict scenes of a sexual nature.

14 Oct 2022 – 8 Jan 2023

The Courtauld Gallery  The Denise Coates Exhibition Galleries 

Friends Exclusive Timeslots

Sat 15 Oct 2022, 10.00 – 11.00
Sat 7 Jan 2023, 10.00 – 11.00

Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism


“Complex, brilliant, unsettling works”

The Telegraph


The Guardian

Exhibition catalogue

This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies the highly anticipated exhibition Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism.

Buy now
The front cover of the Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism i The front cover of the Fuseli and the Modern Woman: Fashion, Fantasy, Fetishism

Open Courtauld Hour: The Modern Woman and Fuseli

Thur 1 Dec, 5.30 – 6.30pm
Online (free)

This special Open Courtauld Hour brings our latest exhibition to an online audience. Academics, curators and experts will aim to interrogate the uneven balance between artist, viewer and subject and question whether Fuseli’s works are as problematic today as they were then.

Book Now
i Henri Fuseli, Woman in a Sculpture Gallery​ (1798), Pen and black ink, brush and watercolour, over graphite, heightened with white opaque watercolour 410 x 247 mm Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstichkabinett

Take the exhibition home

Immerse yourself in the world of Henri Fuseli with specially curated products from The Courtauld Shop. From bespoke prints to exclusive accessories and handcrafted hairpieces, this collection is a true celebration of our latest exhibition.

Shop Now
The Henri Fuseli collection at The Courtauld Shop i The Henri Fuseli collection at The Courtauld Shop

Join the art movement

Get free unlimited entry to The Courtauld Gallery and exhibitions including Fuseli and the Modern Woman, priority booking to selected events, advance notice of art history short courses, exclusive events, discounts and more.

Become a Friend
Friends logo against yellow background

You might also like

Collection, The Courtauld Gallery, What's On Highlights

Visit the permanent collection

Open Monday to Sunday, except Christmas and Boxing Day

You can now book your visit to see our much-loved collection of masterpieces ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century....