From 19 July to 3 September, Cicely Mary Barker’s much loved creations will feature in Sir Harold Hillier Gardens’ spectacular children’s trail.
What could be more fun than slipping on a pair of fairy wings and exploring one of the county’s most beautiful gardens? Twelve fairies feature in the trail along with children’s activities and a fairy grotto. Cicely’s accurate illustrations are a perfect fit for the Gardens – well-known for excellence in horticulture and conservation.
Fairies in the trail include the Honeysuckle Fairy, the Poppy Fairy, the Harebell Fairy and the Foxglove Fairy. The £5 trail (plus normal admission prices) includes a ‘fairy passport’ with activities and a pair of wings.
Cicely Mary Barker: an artist’s life
Cicely’s paintings have been delighting fairy lovers of all ages since they were first published as postcards a hundred years ago. So just how did she create a world that has stood the test of time?
Cicely was a great lover of nature. Born in 1895 in Surrey, she was unable to attend school due to ill health so learned to draw and write from home. She enrolled at Croydon Art Society and began gaining popularity in 1911 when four of her illustrations were published. Magazines, card manufacturers and book publishers soon followed. Fairies were popular at the time, particularly after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publicised the Cottingley fairy photographs in 1920.
In 1923 Cicely published her first book, Flower Fairies of the Spring and released fairy books for the remaining seasons soon after. Cicely also created A Flower Fairy Alphabet and books for fairies of the wayside, trees and garden.
To ensure accuracy in her drawings, Cicely used pupils from her sister’s kindergarten as models. These children posed for her illustrations, holding the flower, twig or blossom of each fairy. This allowed Cicely to accurately portray the plants, and then render her artwork to scale. On some occasions, staff at Kew Gardens visited with specimens for Cicely to paint.
Despite her success, Cicely remained a modest figure. She was passionate about her work, and continued to paint and teach well into her later years.
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Images: © The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker, 2018 Licensed by Frederick Warne & Co.