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Richard Dadd painted this work in the Bethlem Hospital where he was sent after murdering his father and being declared insane. The scene was drawn from his imagination. It shows the ‘fairy-feller’ poised to split a large chestnut which will be used to construct Queen Mab’s new fairy carriage. The style, subject and shifting scale of the painting all contribute to a sense of the fantastic that fits the critic Herbert Read’s idea of an imaginative tradition running through to Surrealism in the early twentieth century.

July 2007