Cicely Mary Barker’s Fairy Illustrations
Numerous artists have found inspiration through the wings of butterflies and the symbolic weight they carry. The most cherished artist in the category of illustrating fairies with lepidopteran wings is British artist, Cicely Mary Barker. Her illustrations are as popular today as she was in 1923 when she first published her “Flower Fairy” books. Though she died in 1973, her fairies live on in the hearts and imaginations of children and adults around the world.
Cicely’s timeless watercolors capture an exuberance of innocence, playfulness and joy. Each flower fairy becomes the fanciful anthropomorphic representative of a British flower. They bear a pair of insect wings and wear a costume fashioned in the likeness of its associated flower. Although most of the wings are butterfly-like, few of them mimic the actual patterns found on British butterflies. Rather, they have metamorphosed into hybrids which also mimic their associated flower. Cicely’s illustrations are accompanied with the song of the specific flower fairy. The songs poetically reveal natural history relating to the flower’s appearance, habitat, life-cycle and special characteristics. The reader may relate to Cicely’s work on numerous levels ranging from natural history, through appreciation of British heritage, to fantasy and imagination.
Illustrations taken from “A World of Flower Fairies” by Cicely Mary Barker. Copyright? The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker, 1925, 1926, 1944, 1948, 1990, 1992. Reproduced by kind permission of Frederick Warne & Co., London