Cicely Mary Barker

Cicely’s paintings have been delighting fairy lovers of all ages since they were first published in a series of postcards a hundred years ago. So just how did she create a world that has stood the test of time?

Cicely was a nature lover and friend to fairies. Born in 1895 in Surrey, she was unable to attend school due to ill health but learnt her drawing and creative writing skills at 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 suit. Fairies were popular at the time, particularly after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publicised the Cottingley fairy photographs in 1920.?

In 1923, Cicely published illustrations in her first book, Flower Fairies of the Spring. Other titles followed, with fairies for each of the seasons released. Barker also created A Flower Fairy Alphabet and books for fairies of the wayside, trees and garden.?

To ensure accuracy in her drawings, Barker 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, Barker remained a modest figure. She was passionate about her work, and continued to paint and teach well into her later years.