Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The Song of the Michaelmas Daisy Fairy
by Cicely Mary Barker

"Red Admiral, Red Admiral,
I'm glad to see you here,
Alighting on my daisies one by one!
I hope you like their flavour
and although the Autumn's near,
Are happy as you sit there in the sun?"

"I thank you very kindly, sir!
Your daisies are so nice,
So pretty and so plentiful are they;
The flavour of their honey, sir,
it really does entice;
I'd like to bring my brothers, if I may!"

"Friend butterfly, friend butterfly,
go fetch them one and all!
I'm waiting here to welcome every guest;
And tell them it is Michaelmas,
and soon the leaves will fall,
But I think Autumn sunshine is the best!"

In the spring of 2007, the Tea Society had a delightful Fairy Tea and plant exchange. At this tea we each contributed an herb or flowering plant to exchange with one another. The theme was that of Victorian Fairies and of the life of English Illustrator, Cicely Mary Barker. I’ve been a fairy enthusiast for many years and have had a fascination with Barker’s artwork and writings. I have a collection of her flower fairy figurines, which I tuck in wreaths, plants, arrangements, and even the Christmas Tree. My daughter’s Baby Book is even the Cicely Mary Barker Flower Babies Book and I dare say, The Black Bryony Fairy, reminds me very much of our sweet Rosebud. Below is a bit of background information on Barker as well as some wonderful images of her art work as well as vintage photos from various stages of her life in England.

The children's classic books of Flower Fairies are what made Cicely Mary Barker famous. She had already received considerable praise during the first world war for her pictures of children at work and play, and in religious, literary and national themes.

Cicely Mary Barker was born in Croydon on 28th June 1895 and died in 1973 in Worthing. From 1907 she lived at No 17 The Waldrons and in 1924 she moved to No. 23 where her sister Dorothy eventually opened a small kindergarten school.
Cicely suffered epilepsy and was in poor health for much of her childhood. She was educated at home and this was where she taught herself to paint and draw. At this time she was greatly influenced by the illustrations of Kate Greenaway. She believed in recreating the beauty of nature in art. The plants and flowers she created were completed with total botanic accuracy and the fairies were all based on children she had observed, not only at her sister Dorothy's kindergarten but from all walks of life. Cicely’s principal artist influence has been credited to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She appreciated and shared their philosophy of being true to nature in her dedication to accuracy in depicting flowers and plants and in the manner in which her fairies represented the spirit.

Supported by her family and attending evening classes at Croydon School of Art she began by making postcards - a good way of getting public recognition for her art. At the age of 16 the Croydon Art Society awarded her second prize in a poster competition and she was elected to life membership of the Society - the youngest person to receive this honour.

Cicely had strong Christian beliefs and illustrated Christmas cards, hymns and bible stories. One of her commissioned works 'The Parable of the Last Supper' is housed at St Georges's Church in Waddon and the seven sacraments decorate the front of her own church St. Andrew's.

(So much like my daughter...)

( Cicely is seen here with her elder sister Dorothy.)

(A later photograph of Ms. Barker. She died on February 16, 1973 at the age of 77. Coincidentally, it was the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of her first ‘Flower Fairy’ book that year.)


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

These are so charming, I've always loved them. Funny, Miss Barker sort of possessed a fairy-like countenance in that later photograph.

Rebecca said...

Pamela, I think so as well...She had an almost mystical aura about her.

willow said...

Perfect post for this glorious, sunny, almost fall day!! :^)

The first one does look amazingly like your Rose Bud!

JenX67 said...

wonderful memories of my mother's flower fairie books.

steviewren said...

Thanks Rebecca, I've seen the vintage cards before but I was unaware of the artist's life story. I can see why you are drawn to these delightful images.

Mmm said...

this will soudns crazy but when I was about 6 my sister and I both dreamed the same dream about faeries dancing in our room. We had recently moved to London. We had never thought abou them before so not sure to this day what all that was about!

Betsy said...

Love this post! Fairies are fascinating! I truely believed in them when I was young. Love the pictures!

Lavinia said...

Such sweet illustrations....Hey Betsy, I would like a cup of 'fairy tea' wouldn't you? Tea party with the enchanted creatures....

Blog Princess G said...

I love Cicely Barker's flower fairy prints. When I lived in London in the 80s you could find originals for about 5 pounds. I can't imagine how much they must be worth now. I seem to recall buying a couple for my little cousin. They are so sweet and charming, and no matter what your flower, I think she drew a fairy for it. :)