Fantasy of dreams

Dreams can be the gateway to imagination. Their inner world can be a well of ideas for fantasy artists. The creation in literature of the monster Frankenstein was the result of a dream by its author, Mary Shelley. Many artists and authors have kept a pencil and paper by their beds so that, on waking, they could write down the new ideas and images which appeared in their dreams. In the 20th century many psychologists have interpreted our dreams and fantasies as unfulfilled secret ambitions and fears. For whatever reason we dream, the images are dazzling in their nonconformity to reality. Space, form and time are all suspended in the mirror of our sleeping minds.

Preceding pages: The nightmare

Henry Fuseli, 1781

Shortly after completing this picture, Fuseli wrote to a friend that he had dreamed of how he had made love to his unrequited sweetheart, the lady believed to be the subject of this picture. He painted a series of these subjects, each illustrating a young girl's dream, but most likely depicting his own fears and anxieties. The girl in Fuseli's painting is believed to be experiencing an imaginary sexual assault. Fuseli's other versions of this subject were thought to be commissions for private bedrooms. Copies of this subject were sold as popular engravings, and its sense of intimate privacy was turned into a jesting, joking, crude ridicule of a young girl's fantasies.

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