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strange and beautiful paintings

Savage innocence

Fairies hiding from a storm


A small incident in fairyland

There is a garden within each of us to which as children we knew the way, or at the very least, of which we had a remembrance. It is now largely forgotten, and its inhabitants reduced in size.

This garden is a country called Arcadia, variously situated in the Peloponnese and in the land of the Hyperboreans, and its inhabitants are immortal nymphs, satyrs, maenads, shepherds and gods. Today Arcadia maintains only small outposts in certain woods and gardens, and in obscure corners of the heart, and its inhabitants are referred to as fairies.


Fairies by
E. Gertude Thomson from
Three Sunsets and Other Poems
Lewis Carroll 1898

The starting point of this work was a line drawing by E. Gertrude Thomson, Victorian illustrator. Thomson's nineteenth century fairies are too sweet to be completely convincing as agents of the hidden world: they have been almost tamed by becoming decorative.

The elementals of the eighteenth century were darker, larger and more powerful. See Titania and Oberon by Henry Fuseli. The fairies in my painting live uncomfortably in between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are in retreat from Newton's rational world and the industrial age that followed it, but hey refuse to give up their savage innocence to make themselves more acceptable in the nineteenth century or in ours.

The composition of my painting is copied from Thompson's drawing (I don't mind admitting to having copied, because the idea that anything is new is illusory), but the tonality and mood is suggested by Fuseli (for more Fuseli weirdness, click here).

fairy Already in the eighteenth century fairies were under threat, perhaps because of the Enlightenment and Newton's clockwork universe. How strange, then, that in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with all the old certainties gone, people still believe that there is no escape from the mechanism. The world we think of as reality is, according to one modern physical theory, a hologram on the surface of a vast sphere, the radial direction of which is unknown to us, or at any rate, unknown to our five senses.

Do fairies exist? In the form that we imagine them, probably not. Yet there are things that are not describable in ordinary language, and for which therefore we need images which are not themselves real.


Fairies by Martin Dace 2005:
oil on canvas 275mm x 355mm

These citizens of our lost garden are now small enough to hide from a storm under a mushroom. They cannot cease to exist, but we may not always be able to see them.

two fairies

Detail from the painting.

Click for an enlargement of the fairy's face at the top of this page.

September 2005: new version incorporating my latest improvements: go to my desktop wallpaper page for a big version (1024x768 pixels) suitable for your computer desktop of free desktop wallpaper fairies. See the free desktop wallpaper page for conditions of use.

This painting is for sale. For all enquiries click for my contact page.

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