Henry Fuseli

Johann Heinrich Füssli

1741 (Zürich) – 1825 (London)

Known in his adopted Britain as Fuseli, he was born Füssli. Lavater was his schoolfriend: at 21 they caused a furore by denouncing a corrupt magistrate. Fuseli admired Rousseau, met him, but eventually broke with his ideas. Reynolds encouraged Fuseli to dedicate himself to painting (he’d been working as a translator). He befriended Abildgaard in Rome. Etty, Constable, Haydon and Landseer were among his students. Cowper, Blake, Darwin and Wollstonecraft were members of the dissident group around Johnson (Fuseli’s ‘Nightmare’ had verses of Darwin’s attached). His wife scotched his scheme to go and observe the French Revolution with his admirer Wollstonecraft.

Léon Bakst

1866 (Grodno, Belarus) – 1924 (Paris)

Diaghilev and Dobuzhinsky were fellow-members of The World of Art; Bakst later became an influential founding member of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Chagall, Matyushin and Guro were among his students (Chagall fortunately ignoring his advice not to go to Paris if he wanted to survive). Proust visited the Ballets Russes and admired and wrote about him (it is unclear whether they ever met). Debussy was together with him in Ida Rubinstein’s apartment when she staggered in naked and bleeding (a pet panther was to blame). He advised the besotted Picasso he’d only get the chaste Olga Khokhlova by marrying her.

Léon Bakst knew…

Alfred Leslie

1927 (New York) –

Baziotes and Tony Smith taught him. De Kooning, Frankenthaler, Mitchell, Newman and David Smith were among the Cedar Bar crowd he particularly associated with, a number of whose conversations he transcribed for a film. Hartigan had a relationship and close friendship with him. He and Frank fell out over the directorial credits for the landmark film ‘Pull My Daisy’, featuring Ginsberg, Corso, Kerouac, Rivers and Neel. A studio fire destroyed several films he’d been working on with his close friend O’Hara. He’d arranged with another friend, Pollock, to fix his truck the day of Pollock’s fatal accident.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Julius Schnorr

1794 (Leipzig, Germany) – 1872 (Munich)

Schnorr lived for 3 years in Ferdinand and Friedrich Olivier’s house in Vienna, married Ferdinand’s step-daughter, studied with Koch, and was accompanied by Friedrich to Rome, then a magnet for all German artists disposed towards romanticism. He joined the Nazarene group around Overbeck and Cornelius (having written to Overbeck before coming to Italy, asking to be admitted). Richter turned to Schnorr to improve his figure-painting.

William Blake

1757 (London) – 1827 (London)

Fuseli and Blake were friends and great mutual admirers. Blake met Fuseli, Wollstonecraft, Godwin, Paine, Price and Priestley at the home of the radical publisher Johnson, for whom he worked as an illustrator (Blake’s status within Johnson’s circle remains disputed). Flaxman, a friend since they were young artists, put a lot of work his way. Blake did illustrations for Wollstonecraft and for his patron John Linnell, who got him to illustrate the Book of Job and Dante’s Divine Comedy, and introduced him to Palmer and to Frederick Tatham, who reportedly destroyed many of his printing plates after his death.

Washington Allston

1779 (Waccamaw, S.C.) – 1843 (Cambridge, Mass.)

Allston studied under West at the Royal Academy, and addressed a sonnet to “My Venerable Friend.” He also wrote a sonnet to and painted the portrait of his lifelong friend and admirer Coleridge, whom he had originally met in Rome. Morse was one of Allston’s many pupils, and crossed the Atlantic with him to go to London. Stuart criticised the perspective in an unfinished painting by Allston, who spent another quarter-century without completing it. Dickens and Irving both made visits to Allston in Boston, Dickens taking snuff from his friend’s snuff-box during a $15, ten-course banquet in Dickens’ honour.

Max Jacob

1876 (Quimper, France) – 1944 (Drancy)

Jacob lodged at the famous Bâteau-Lavoir, along with Picasso, Apollinaire, Cocteau, van Dongen and Salmon. He and Picasso time-shared a bed and a hat, one working by night, the other by day. Modigliani, another friend, painted his portrait. Gris, Braque, Picasso and Jacob spent the summer of 1913 together; he had met both Braque and de Chirico through Apollinaire. Poulenc, another friend, set some of his words to music. He corresponded intensely with Jabès and with Leiris, illustrated Hugnet’s poems, was at Apollinaire’s deathbed, and met the 17-year-old Dubuffet (Jacob was his favourite poet) when he came to Paris to study.