Art Term

Fairy painting

Fairy painting is particularly associated with the Victorian period, art that depicts fairies and other subjects from the supernatural

William Blake, ‘Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing’ c.1786
William Blake
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing c.1786
Tate

A fascination with fairies and the supernatural was a phenomenon of the Victorian age and resulted in a distinctive strand of art depicting fairy subjects drawn from myth and legend and particularly from Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Early, pre-Victorian examples are in Henry Fuseli, William Blake and Theodore Von Holst. Later Richard Dadd created keynote paintings, but most consistent and compelling is John Anster Fitzgerald. Richard Doyle also produced notable fairy illustrations. Other contributions came from many painters including Landseer and even Turner. Fairy painting reached its final flowering in the illustrated books of Arthur Rackham around 1900–14.

Selected artists in the collection

Selected artworks in the collection