Since they first crept out from behind leaves and flowers in 1918 for the Elves and Fairies postcards, Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies™ have been enchanting and delighting children and adults alike. A selection of these charming characters will be on display at the Garden Museum this summer in an exhibition which celebrates the centenary of the earliest publication of Cicely Mary Barker’s first fairy illustrations.
Continuing to be inspired by fairies Cicely Mary Barker published the first of her Flower Fairies books in 1923. Visitors will see original illustrations for more than 40 of her Flower Fairies designs, drawing extensively from the Frederick Warne archive which is an imprint of Penguin Random House UK. There will also be previously unseen sketchbooks and drawings together with her research materials.
The exhibition demonstrates Cicely’s precision and skill as an artist; the fairies themselves were developed from careful observation of children in her sister’s nursery. The depictions of plants are always botanically accurate, which has contributed to the lasting appeal of the designs. It’s the combination of this accuracy with her imagination which makes her illustrations so unique.
Fairies were experiencing great popularity at the time Cicely first published her works. Most notably, the mystery surrounding the Cottingley fairy photographs which Arthur Conan Doyle published in a sell-out article for The Strand, whilst JM Barrie captured the imagination of a generation in his enduring tale Peter Pan.
Younger visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to dress up as some of their favourite fairies from Barker’s Illustrations and send pictures to family and friends.
Some key pieces in the exhibition include a rare set of 1918 Elves and Fairies postcards and the original artwork for these, as well as the preparatory sketches for the White Bindweed Fairy, Alder Fairy and Jack-go-to-Bed at noon. There will be artwork from all eight of the original Flower Fairies books, including Flower Fairies of the Winter, which was published posthumously. Favourites include the Fuchsia Fairy, the Strawberry Fairy, the Rose Fairy and the Horse Chestnut Fairy.
The exhibition will be held alongside a number of family-friendly events, including cookery workshops which explore the use of edible flowers in food and garden workshops which will allow children to make fairy gardens