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GALLERY TWO: Fairies, Symbolism and Surrealism

I FIRST CAME ACROSS Richard Dadd's Fairy Feller without any warning in a basement at Tate Britain in London where the William Blake pictures and other oddities were then shown. It must have been about two hours later that I moved on in a daze. Soon afterwards the picture was to be seen everywhere thanks to the psychedelic mood of the times, but I've never grown tired of it. Years later I took along an Argentinian artist friend who had never heard of Dadd. He was similarly stunned. Finally he looked up and said 'The man was mad!' after noticing that some leaves in the picture were actually sculpted in paint. His opinion was of course perfectly correct.

Apart from a couple, Dadd's other paintings are more in the accepted style of Victorian fairy painting, which was a wonderfully subversive way of celebrating sensuality in those repressed days. As with pseudo-classical sculpture it was an accepted medium for nudity and other forbidden fruits.

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Fairy Feller Bacchanalia Oberon and Titania
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JOSEPH NOEL PATON below is a good example of the kind of Victorian fairy painter Richard Dadd might have kept company with if not for his misfortune.
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GUSTAVE MOREAU, perhaps foremost among the Symbolists, has had an enormous influence on modern fantasy illustrators, helped perhaps by the strong design element of his compositions.

La Licorne Les Licornes Hesiod and the Muse Mystic Flower Orestes
Jupiter and Semele Semele (detail) Salome St Sebastian Jacob and the Angel Head of Orpheus
St George and the Dragon Hercules and the Hydra Phaeton Poet Borne by a Centaur Hesiod and the Muses

ARNOLD BOCKLIN was a Swiss Symbolist painter best known for the first of the pictures below, which inspired a homage by fellow Swiss HR Giger of Alien fame. Bocklin was also a major influence on several Surrealist painters including Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp.

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SURREALISM

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FANTASTIC REALISM is much less well known than Surrealism but was kind of a continuation by the next generation who had been inspired by Ernst, Delvaux, Dali and the rest. It was a much looser affiliation and so avoided the absurdity of the Surrealists' falling into dogmatism and expelling Salvador Dali, their most enduringly famous exponent. Also known as Magic Realism, the group grew from a group of art students in Vienna who were scattered by the War in 1939 and regrouped afterwards to try and pick up where they had left off. A signature of the style is high, almost Renaissance quality realism applied to fantastic and symbolic subject matter.

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