Henry Fuseli was born in Zürich (Switzerland) on February 7, 1741, the second of eighteen children. His father was a painter of portraits and landscapes. He sent Henry to the Caroline college of Zurich, where he received a classical education.
In 1761 Fuseli was forced to leave the country as a result of having helped a friend to expose an unjust magistrate, whose powerful family sought revenge. He travelled through Germany and in 1765 visited England where he supported himself for some time by writing. In the course of time he devoted himself wholly to art. In 1770 he made an art-pilgrimage to Italy, where he remained till 1778, changing his name from Füssli to Fuseli, because it sounded more Italian. Early in 1779 he returned to Great-Britain. He found a commission awaiting him from Alderman Boydell. Fuseli painted a number of pieces for Boydell. In 1788 Fuseli married Sophia Rawlins, who originally was one of his models, and soon after became an associate of the Royal Academy. Two years later he was promoted to Academician.
In 1799 Fuseli exhibited a series of paintings from subjects furnished by the works of John Milton. The exhibition proved a commercial failure. In 1799 Fuseli was appointed professor of painting to the Academy.
Fuseli, after a life of good health, and comparatively rich at the end of his life, died at Putney Hill on April 16, 1825, and was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral.