Frank Davis Memorial Lecture series: Fuseli and the Graphic Body

Fuseli’s mutable bodies

Speaker: Dr Martin Myrone, Head of Grants, Fellowships and Networks, Paul Mellon Centre for British Art

Although a figurative artist, one whose work tends to such extremes of gestural clarity and morphological definition as to appear caricature-like, Fuseli’s drawings and paintings have been subjected to the question ‘which way up should this go?’ surprisingly often. Contemporary reviewers often seemed bemused or offended by his treatment of the body and questioned whether the poses and anatomies displayed in his art made any sense. There were stories of his pictures being hung upside-down, and to this day some of his drawings have been mounted (and displayed and published) in orientations which are questionable or clearly wrong. Moreover, if his male and female figures can seem exaggerated in their sexual characteristics, they are also often cast into irregular gendered roles and relationships.  This lecture would explore the mutability of Fuseli’s graphic bodies, and how they operate around but also defy distinctions between life and death, the sculpted and the fleshy, orderly and disorderly anatomies.

Martin Myrone is Head of Grants, Fellowships and Networks at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, and Convenor of the British Art Network. Before joining the Paul Mellon Centre in 2020, Martin spent over twenty years in curatorial roles at Tate, London, latterly as Senior Curator, Pre-1800 British Art. His many exhibitions at Tate Britain have included Gothic Nightmares in 2006, John Martin in 2011, William Blake in 2019 and Hogarth and Europe in 2021. His research and publications have focused on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, with a special interest in artistic identity and artists’ labour, class, cultural opportunity and gender. His many published works include Bodybuilding: Reforming Masculinities in British Art 1750–1810 (2005) and Making the Modern Artist: Culture, Class and Art-Educational Opportunity in Romantic Britain (2020), both published by the Paul Mellon Centre.

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.

6 Dec 2022

Tuesday 6th December 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 start time.


Detail of a drawing depicting the torso and arms of a woman wearing a long dress
Detail from Henry Fuseli, Standing woman seen from the back, c. 1796-1800, London, The Courtauld, Samuel Courtauld Trust, Sir Robert Witt bequest.

Fuseli’s mutable bodies