For the past few months, I have been researching fairy lore for an ongoing writing project. I recently came across an exhibition catalogue on Victorian fairy paintings, suitably titled Victorian Fairy Painting (1997, edited by Jane Martineau with contributing essays from curators and other experts).
I feel so lucky to have stumbled into this one at Balfour Books in Toronto while they were having a big sale.
The drawing below was inspired by Richard Doyle’s The Fairy Tree, which I saw in the book and immediately thought it would be a good excuse to draw monsters.
Richard Doyle was brilliant at drawing little fairy folk figures in imaginative wondrous landscapes. Unfortunately, his depictions carry racist, nationalist, and orientalist attitudes of the time.
He was also the uncle of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who later enthusiastically embraced spiritualism.
I love the dream paintings of self-taught artist John Anster Fitzgerald, included in the catalogue. His paintings below had several versions and were controversial because the earlier versions showed references to drug-induced hallucinations and darker themes.
So many fairy paintings from the Victorian period were heavily inspired by Shakespeare, ballet, and theatre – but my favourites are inspired by more traditional lore, spiritualism, and psychological themes 🖤
Richard Doyle’s The Fairy Tree
The Artist’s Dream by John Anster Fitzgerald (1857)
The Nightmare by John Anster Fitzgerald (c.1857-8)
The Stuff that Dreams are Made of by John Anster Fitzgerald (1858)
Completely unrelated, as I was browsing the children’s section in the bookstore, I noticed that staff had subtly placed an unwelcome book in the children’s section. I found this offensive to children’s literature 😦