Despite his lack of formal art training, Victorian painter John Anster Fitzgerald became accepted by the Royal Academy, exhibited at the British Institution and established himself as well-known portrait painter and illustrator.
However, “Fairy Fitzgerald” earned his nickname as a “fairy painter”, a popular niche genre in Victorian painting that focused on the depictions of fairies and their otherworldly kin, and the sometimes escapist and imaginative settings evoked by the literature from which the ideas are derived.
One might imagine that this was in some ways the Victorian equivalent of the appeal of contemporary fantasy art, which has revisited related themes with regularity.
Fitzgerald’s take on the subject, though whimsical in some respects, was often darker than that of his contemporaries, with influences from Bosch and Brueghel raising their twisted little heads amidst the flowers and moss of the forest floor.
In some ways, this is an appropriate undercurrent for the subject, given the often dark and grisly nature of many of the original fairy tales and folklore that were the basis for the motifs.
Fitzgerald utilized brilliant color, strong value contrasts and richly textural detail to give his work a visual appeal much suited to his subjects and the appetites of his audience.
His work experienced a revival in the 20th Century, to the point where forgers were discovered to be creating numerous fake Fitzgeralds.
8 Replies to “John Anster Fitzgerald”
You don’t mention the influence of opium which was comon at this period.
Yes, there are apparently references in the subjects and titles of a number of his paintings to drug use, which in Victorian England included opium and laudanum.
Fitzgerald’s subject matter AND style resemble to some degree that of his contemporary, the institutionalized Richard Dadd, about whom I think you posted a few years ago.
Yes. Thanks for the thought.
For the benefit of other readers, here is my post on Richard Dadd.
Victorians did have a thing for fairies, didn’t they? I had the luck to see Dadd’s paintings at Tate (they have a special room dedicated to him) and those pieces are mesmerizing beyond words. No reproduction can translate that special three dimensional quality.
I think that contemporary fantasy art are inferior to Victorian fantasy paintings – despite the fact that some of the latter were overtly sentimental. Vast majority of contemporary fantasy art is nothing but depictions of hideous monsters, weird war robots scantily clad babes with laser guns.
There were some typos and errors in my previous comment. Here it is again, but with corrections:
I think that contemporary fantasy art is inferior to Victorian fantasy paintings, despite the fact that some of the latter were overtly sentimental.
We all know that vast majority of contemporary fantasy art equals depictions of hideous monsters, weird war robots and scantily clad babes with laser guns. All in oversaturated colors. You can rarely see an exciting composition out there.
OMG I saw this artists images long ago and have been looking for his name ever since! Thank you for this post – I love these paintings.
P.S. @ Valentino: hideous monsters, weird war robots and scantily clad babes with laser guns – that’s our culture. the art is reflecting what already IS. I find it pretty interesting, actually!
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