Monday, October 6, 2014

Barker's Flower Fairies

Cicely Mary Barker, Privet Fairy
The portrayal of fairies often focuses on their supposed malicious or mischievous nature, but fairies in early 20th century British popular culture were more often portrayed as ethereal and innocent nature spirits.

Cicely Mary Barker, Bluebell
Cicely Mary Barker (1895 – 1973) was an English illustrator who produced a series of paintings of fairies combined with flowers, themed to the season. She was influenced by Kate Greenaway and the Pre-Raphaelites to paint nature accurately from observation.

She had a ready supply of child models because her sister conducted a kindergarten in the family home. She would do pencil studies of the kids from life, and then base the finished watercolors on those studies.

Cicely Mary Barker, Honeysuckle Fairy
The flowers were also painted from life, and if she didn't have the right flowers in her garden, she borrowed them from Kew Gardens. She made her own costumes for her models, including wings made from twigs and gauze. Each costume was designed to match features of the flower she was spotlighting.  

Cicely Mary Barker, Celandine
Her paintings were, and still are, commercialized in books, cards, and prints by Blackie and later Warne. One of the best books is The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies, though some of the subjects have been omitted and cropped from the earlier editions. A Treasury of Flower Fairies contains about 60 plates, together with Barker's poems about each flower fairy.
Cicely Mary Barker on Wikipedia


Dow said...

Her work is wonderful - one of my favorites!

Dan said...

These are really marvelous compositions, and beautifully drawn.

Terry said...

One of my very favorite books from my grandma's house in the 1950s. She had two, the Spring, and the Summer ones, and she gave me the Spring one and my cousin the Summer one. I still have mine, though the cover is in terrible shape. My granddaughter discovered Baker's fairies independent of me so I sent her that big book. They are lovely. I spent countless hours poring over every detail in those paintings. I'm so glad her books have enjoyed a resurgence.

Terry said...

Barker. I meant Barker. Dang.

Rich said...

The honeysuckle one is my favorite here. Really nice how figures and dresses admirably fit together with plants and flowers.

Jim Hartlage said...

FYI - I ended up ordering the blue/black ink from Sheaffer I had previously asked you about. I must say, I really like the color. Thanks for all of the great content you post on this blog. Jim

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

I love her work. Great post
The end papers of the children's encyclopedia we had when I was a kid had faeries in the illustrations. I remember wanting to be one so I could make magic and fly.