Richard Wagner (1813-1883) who regarded himself as "the most German of men", "the German spirit" is not only known because of his 13 operas and numerous other compositions but also because of his inevitable influence on our understanding of German culture and history. He has been classified as an anarchist and a socialist and, simultaneously, as a proto-fascist and nationalist, as a vegetarian and an antisemite... In fact, his name has appeared in connection to almost all major trends in German history of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Besides his activity as a composer and a librettist Wagner wrote an astonishing number of books and articles (this link includes some complete works as hypertext), in fact about 230 titles. The literary spectrum ranges from theories of opera to political programs. You may catch some of his political ideas from the quotations I have chosen.
In addition to these activities Wagner wrote about 10.000 letters.
Richard Wagner is undoubtedly one of the leading figures of the 19th century. Already at his time, he was a source of debate and controversy. When Wagner died in 1883, over 10.000 books and articles were written about him. The amount of research has multiplied after his death.
Wagner inspired not only musicians and composers but artists alike. One of the most famous artists to illustrate Wagner's operas was the noted 19th century German painter Ferdinand Leeke (1859-1925). An interesting and still rather neglected side of Wagner is the memorabilia and popular culture inspired by his character.
Also Richard Wagner's son, Siegfried, was an opera composer. In fact, he made more operas than his father!