Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking

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Fuseli, Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking, 1781-1784

Henry Fuseli was born in Zurich, Switzerland and was an active member in the church. Growing up, his father, a landscape painter, planned for him to work in the church. Fuseli had other ideas, so he left and pursued writing, He had many artistic influences in his life so it was not shock that when he first left home Fuseli wrote random pieces to bring in money. When he became tired of writing he found another interest that he fell in love with, drawing and painting. This led to his art pilgrimage that started in 1770 in Italy and ended in Britain in 1779.

While in Britain, Fuseli acquired his first commission at a Shakespeare gallery. He had studied many of Shakespeare's works, so this project led to many sketches and interesting works. This particular piece, Lady Macbeth Sleepwalking, Fuseli paints a scene towards the end of the play where Lady Macbeth starts sleepwalking and dreams of blood on her hands after her crusade to power. She runs through the dark halls obviously frightened and holding her hand in the air. She is turning away from her hand not wanting to see all of the damage she has caused.

During his Shakespeare project Fuseli was quoted saying, "All minute detail tends to destroy terror." The quote certainly explains the lack of background, but we stills see his talent in the shadows. A trend of rococo painting is this use of space and darkness which Fuseli uses well here. He shows the rushed movement of Lady Macbeth as she hurries down the hallway in her clothing and body, as well as the light in her hand pushing backward. The couple in this picture look extremely interrupted. They are positioned as though they were enjoying their time in the dark until the frazzled Lady Macbeth ruins their fun. With some imagination you can see my amusement with the couple. Regardless, Fuseli does a wonderful job here playing with the ribbon in the fiery red hair and the work is spectacular. It's nice to be able to take something like Shakespeare's plays and be able to read, study, act, and paint these sorts of things so that the mind can absorb the original work in different ways.

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