The often grim reality of Victorian life induced in many the desire for escapism.
Whereas wealthy industrialists who made their money in the exploitation of children in the cotton mills of the North-West sought to escape the harsh environment of their own making in portraits of a past rural idyll which likely never existed, middle class professionals drew comfort from the death that pervaded every household and the poverty that lay beyond their doorstep in fairies.
Artists such as John Anster Fitzgerald, Joseph Noel Paxton, and Richard Dadd who was at his most creative whilst an inmate at the Bethlehem Psychiatric Hospital where he had been ever since slitting his own father’s throat.
The Victorians lived in an era when triumph existed in equal measure alongside tragedy and disaster, and as such they had a corresponding fascination with the ethereal whether it was in the mythologizing of the past, the strange miasmas of disease, or spiritualism and the afterlife.
Fairy painting captured all three in a blaze of colour and dreamlike fantasy that provided solace to the often tortured Victorian soul.