Stuff of dreams
Two exhibitions show how a pair of 18th-century painters, James Barry and Henry Fuseli, inspired the modern visual ★romance with the gothic
THIS spring the bad boys of British art are ★making a comeback. Not Damien Hirst and his friends, but the original ★enfants terribles—★Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) and James Barry (1741-1806)—who aimed, above all, to depict extremes of passion and terror in what they called the new art of the Sublime.
Barry and Fuseli are hardly household names; indeed since Victorian times they have been virtually ignored. But in the late 18th century, Fuseli, and for a short time Barry also, were prominent members of the young Royal Academy of Arts (RA) and influential professors of painting there. Barry's ★fall from grace was the most dramatic, but there is much to admire in this irascible Irish artist who, like Fuseli, once taught William Blake. Barry's prolific historical paintings demonstrate his ambition to rival the painters of antiquity and the Renaissance and to practise what the then president of the RA, Sir Joshua Reynolds, always preached—that history painting was the noblest form of art. （1）But Barry found it hard to be bound by rules, and he turned history and myth into a series of ★tableaux that were at once oddly expressionistic and deeply personal.
His melodramatic “King Lear Weeping over the Body of Cordelia” and his sexually charged “★Jupiter and Juno on Mount Ida”, now both part of a retrospective of the artist's work in Cork, （2）proved too full of feeling for a British audience raised on portraits and landscape paintings. His only loyal patron was Edmund Burke, who had ★coined a theory of the Sublime.
Barry felt he was a persecuted soul, and he painted himself as various ill-fated characters, most bizarrely ★Philoctetes, the sailor whom Odysseus abandoned on the island of Lemnos because he smelled so bad. As if that weren't enough, Barry also incited his RA students to revolt and then allegedly accused Reynolds of financial impropriety. When he became too unbearable, Barry became the first artist to be expelled by the academy.
Barry knew Fuseli, and （3）he makes a minor appearance in “Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination”, the ★brainchild of an engaging British ★polymath, Sir Christopher Frayling, who heads the Arts Council of England and the Royal College of Art. Sir Christopher has long been fascinated by the horror ★genre—he once presented a popular television programme on the topic—and his favourite painting is Fuseli's “The Nightmare” (pictured above), an unsettling image of a sleeping maiden, with an ★incubus ★perched on her stomach and a ★ghoulish horse peering through a curtain.
Sir Christopher sees this painting, together with Fuseli's scenes from Milton and Shakespeare, as part of a search for national myths in the late 18th century. （4）Indeed, his interpretation illuminates an Enlightenment world that hovered between reason and ★bigotry, and where a quasi-scientific interest in the ★occult and the emerging genre of the novel fed a public that was hungry for “tales of wonder”.
Unlike Barry, Fuseli—a former preacher who was forced to leave his native Zurich—looked rationally at the London art scene. He saw that（5）the only way to compete for “wall power” at the all-important annual exhibition of the RA was to carve out his own niche, the more eye-catching and ★esoteric the better. In 1782 Fuseli exhibited “The Nightmare” for the first time, drawing record crowds of up to 3,000 people a day. Perplexed critics asked what the painting was about. In an age when art was supposed to depict an actual person or event, （6）it came as a shock that this was a painting not of a nightmare, but of the nightmare as a generalized experience.
Interestingly, it was not until 1793 that anyone suggested publicly that the painting of a scantily ★clad woman stretched out on a bed might be about sex. In a post-Freud world, it is impossible to look at “The Nightmare” and see anything else.（7） There is a soft-porn ★perversity about many of Fuseli's muscular super-heroes and ★nubile ★nymphs, particularly his Titania from “A Midsummer Night's Dream”. The ★erotic drawings and prints by him and his pupil Theodor von Holst are so explicit that the Tate has hung a veil between them and Fuseli's popular fairy paintings nearby, which are a favourite with children.
Unsurprisingly, Fuseli's work was ★vilified by the Victorians, and he came back into favour only when the Surrealists—（8）★enthralled by his weird mix of deviance, death and dreams—claimed him as a hero. Today, the artist who bred his own moths in order to depict them accurately in his fairy paintings hangs in the same gallery as those other attention-seekers, Mr Hirst and Tracey Emin; it is almost as if he were their long-lost ancestor.
While Fuseli's rehabilitation is admirable, the Tate's obsession with inclusiveness dilutes Sir Christopher's ideas. （9）Viewers are overloaded with ★mawkish pictures that the curators call “Gothic gloomth”, borrowing a phrase from Horace Walpole. Instead of rising to Sir Christopher's wide-ranging themes, which link Fuseli and Blake with other great European painters, including Goya and Caspar David Friedrich, the Tate has taken a ★parochial view, showing virtually every mediocre British artist who ever ★dabbled in gothic fantasy. Thankfully James Gillray is also there, and his ★biting caricatures lift the spirits.
The last room is one of the best.（10） Here Sir Christopher has added his cross-cultural ★hallmark: a series of horror film clips that invoke Fuseli's “The Nightmare” as the ultimate shock-horror icon. And at the exit, Angela Carter's words, “We live in gothic times”, are emblazoned on the wall. The spirit of Barry and Fuseli lives on.
如：a childhood romance with the sea 儿时对大海的浪漫向往（憧憬）
make a comeback: 恢复、复原（指名誉、地位、知名度、流行性）
如：The film star made an unexpected comeback. 这位电影明星出人意料地复出了。
enfant terrible：莽汉（因其令人惊愕的不合传统的行为、工作或思想而使他人困窘或惊慌的人）；复数形式为enfants terribles
如：The radical painter was the enfant terrible of the art establishment.激进派画家是艺术当权派的可怕莽汉
fall from grace: 失去天恩，堕落（名誉、地位的贬低）
如：Do not coin terms that are intelligible to nobody.不要生造谁也不懂的词语。
如：Birds perched on the branch.鸟停在树枝上。
如：Some words are really too esoteric for this dictionary. 有些单词实在太生僻了,未收入本词典内。
如：The woods on the mountain sides were clad in mist.高山坡上的小树林都笼罩在一片薄雾中。
如：The boy was enthralled by the stories of adventure.这孩子被冒险故事迷住了。
dabble：v.涉水，涉足 dabble in：涉猎，涉足；不经意做……
如：She just dabbles in chemistry.她只不过是随便搞一下化学。
如：His remark has a biting edge to it.他的评语非常尖锐。
如：The sense of guilt is the hallmark of civilized humanity.犯罪感是文明人显而易见的特征。
（1） But Barry found it hard to be bound by rules, and he turned history and myth into a series of tableaux that were at once oddly expressionistic and deeply personal.
（2） proved too full of feeling for a British audience raised on portraits and landscape paintings.
（3） he makes a minor appearance in “Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination”
（4） Indeed, his interpretation illuminates an Enlightenment world that hovered between reason and bigotry, and where a quasi-scientific interest in the occult and the emerging genre of the novel fed a public that was hungry for “tales of wonder”.
（5） the only way to compete for “wall power” at the all-important annual exhibition of the RA was to carve out his own niche, the more eye-catching and esoteric the better.
（6） it came as a shock that this was a painting not of a nightmare, but of the nightmare as a generalized experience.
（7） There is a soft-porn perversity about many of Fuseli's muscular super-heroes and nubile nymphs, particularly his Titania from “A Midsummer Night's Dream”.
（8） enthralled by his weird mix of deviance, death and dreams
（9） Viewers are overloaded with mawkish pictures that the curators call “Gothic gloomth”, borrowing a phrase from Horace Walpole.
（10） Here Sir Christopher has added his cross-cultural hallmark: a series of horror film clips that invoke Fuseli's “The Nightmare” as the ultimate shock-horror icon