Fuseli, a native of Switzerland, began his career in England as a history painter. He developed an expressionistic style composed of a unique blend of influences—German romanticism, the monumental vision of Michelangelo, and the physical and psychological exaggerations of the 16th–century Italian mannerists.
Fuseli's own pessimism and fascination with the extremes of human passion are evident. He heightened the intensity of this scene from Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus by placing Oedipus and his children in a dark, shallow space. The tragedy of the father's curse is played out through the gestures of the four figures. Polynices, who had expelled his blind father from Thebes and left him to live as a beggar, has come to ask his father's support in overthrowing his brother. Oedipus, enraged at his son's request, stretches out his accusing arms and levies his dreadful curse, by which each son would die at the hands of the other. Ismene, weak and despairing, kneels with her head on her father's knee. Antigone, whose strength and determination have kept her father alive, is highlighted above the terrible drama as she reaches out to protect her brother with one hand and restrain Oedipus with the other. Her gesture, however heroic, is futile.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, which is available as a free PDF https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/british-paintings-16th-19th-centuries.pdf