Holst's work as featured in the Gothick Nightmares exhibition, Tate Britain, 2006

Theodore Von Holst
Frontispiece to Mary Shelley, Frankenstein published by Colburn and Bentley, London 1831
Steel engraving in book 93 x 71 mm
Private collection, Bath

This is the first illustrated edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, originally published in 1818. Von Holst’s design evokes the heroic, heavy-limbed figures of Fuseli. The setting, with its dramatic lighting and medieval tracery, is thoroughly Gothic in style.

Theodore Von Holst
Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits (Bertalda von Kuhleborns Geistern erschreckt) circa 1830
Oil on canvas, 1517 x 915 mm
Lent by the Zurcher Kunstgesellschaft

The subject is taken from the short tale Undine (1811) by the German writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843). The heroine Bertalda is tormented by a host of fantastical creatures, conjured by the wicked supernatural creature, Kühleborn. These have been sent in an attempt to drive her away from the household of the hero, Huldbrand, and the lovely water-nymph Undine.

Bertalda Frightened by Apparitions circa 1830-1835
Oil on canvas, 795 x 615 mm
Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum

The female character is Bertalda, who has entered the happy household of Huldbrand and the water-nymph Undine. The nymph's evil uncle, Kühleborn, intent on keeping the marriage between Undine and Huldbrand intact, tortures Bertalda mentally, haunting her with evil spirits. The subject is taken from the fairytale, Undine, by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843).

Theodore Von Holst
Erotic Scene with a Man and Two Women around 1822-30
Pencil and watercolour on paper, 230 x 189 mm
Lent by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London E109-1952

This sexually explicit design clearly shows the influence of Fuseli's works in this genre. According to an early report, von Holst was actually commissioned in his youth by the painter Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) to create such compositions for George IV. The relatively high level of finish might imply this drawing was a commission rather than a work created for private pleasure.

Theodore Von Holst
Legs of a Standing Female Figure circa 1830
Pen and ink, watercolour and chalk on paper,
122 x 88 mm
Lent by the Courtauld Institute of Art, London

By tradition these legs are said to be those of Maria Anne Fitzherbert (1756-1837), one of the lovers of George IV when Prince of Wales (and, as she was a Catholic, illegally his wife from 1785). George commissioned a number of pornographic drawings from von Holst.

Theodore Von Holst
Sketchbook 1830-1840
Open to folio 6 verso and folio 7
Pen and ink and pencil on paper, in bound volume, 225 x 170 mm approximate sheet size
Private collection

This sketchbook is filled with drawings by Fuseli’s follower von Holst. The range of subjects exemplifies the romantic and supernatural themes that pre-occupied this artist. There are also written notes, including a sheet of proposed ‘Night Sketches’ that includes the tantalising suggestions of ‘Opium’, ‘the Vampyre’, ‘Punch Orgies’ and ‘the untrue lovers last Dream’ as subjects for art.

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