Henry Fuseli, The Death of Brutus, a charcoal drawing with white chalk

London, England, AD 1780-85

Born in 1741 (died 1825) as Johann Heinrich Füssli in Zurich, Fuseli altered his name to be more pronounceable in Italy and England where he spent most of his life. He received an early education in art and literature from his father, a painter and art-historian. He was ordained as a Zwinglian minister in 1761, but was asked to leave Zurich after exposing the corruption of a magistrate.

Sir Joshua Reyolds encouraged him to become a painter, and as his training he spent eight years in Rome drawing from the classical antiquities that surrounded him and from Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. On his return to London in 1779, his painting became increasingly powerful and romantic, typified by the erotic horror of The Nightmare (1781, Detroit Institute of Art).

In 1799 he was made Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy, where he taught both John Constable and Benjamin Robert Haydon. He was a friend of William Blake whom he confessed to find 'damned good to steal from'. Blake returned the compliment, describing Fuseli as, 'the only man that e'er I knew/ Who did not make me almost spew'.

This drawing is one of many by Fuseli inspired by Shakespeare. It shows Brutus running onto the sword held by Strato (Julius Caesar, V, 5).

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More information


F. Licht, S.T. Pizzetti, and D. H. Weinglass (eds.), Füssli, pittore di Shakespeare (Parma, 1997)

G. Schiff (ed.), Henry Fuseli (London, Tate, 1971)


Height: 553.000 mm
Width: 669.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1856-5-10-1179



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