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Shakespeare's plays illustrated by Blake and Fuseli: The artists as critics

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  1. The Supernatural and the World of Nightmare
    1. William Blake, Hecate (1795)
    2. Henry Füseli, Garrick and Mrs. Pritchard in Macbeth (1812)
    3. Henry Füseli, The Three Witches (1783)
    4. Henry Füseli, Hamlet and the Ghost (1789)
  2. The Fairy World of Dreams and Fantasy
    1. William Blake, Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing (1785)
    2. Henry Füseli, Titania, Bottom and the Fairies (1794)
    3. Henry Füseli, Titania Awakening (1789)
    4. William Blake, Fiery Pegasus (1809)
    5. William Blake, The Dance of Albion (1794)
  3. The Human Condition and History
    1. Henry Füseli, Lady Constance, Arthur and Salisbury (1783)
    2. William Blake, Lear and Cordelia in Prison (1779)
    3. Henry Füseli, The Death of Cardinal Beaufort (1772)
    4. Henry Füseli, King Lear casting out his daughter Cordelia (1792)

It has judiciously been pointed out that "pictures from Shakespeare account[ed] for about one fifth -some 2 300- of the total number of literary paintings recorded between 1760 and 1900" (R. Altick). As a matter of fact, the renewed interest in nineteenth century British art in the last few decades has made it easier to identify and see reproductions of the many paintings based on Shakespeare's plays. These "history paintings", as they were called, reveal how deeply painters, actors, directors and critics influenced one another, and how interdependent they were in their critical interpretations, depictions and productions of Shakespeare's masterpieces. In the nineteenth century, the relationship between literature and the graphic arts was much closer and the definition of "literary" criticism was broader than it is now. Some painters were even called "poets painters", in reference to the concept of "ut pictura poesis" and the traditional analogy between painters and poets, which was known for "identifying the painter with the players, as artists equally capable of realizing the narrative import and the dramatic potential of the poet's imagined picture" (M. Meisel).

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