J. A. Fitzgerald is one of the most delicate and imaginative of the Victorian Fairy painters. More than any of the other artists working in this genre, he was able to suggest the existence of a coherent alternative world, which was ethereal and bizarre. He exhibited in most of the major London exhibitions from 1845 onwards, showing works at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, the Society of British Artists, the Watercolour Society, and the Dudley Gallery. — Peter Nahum

Fitzgerald, the ‘King of the Fairy Painters’, evoked worlds where the fairies seemed very close to us, separated at times only by the veil of sleep. There are overt references to drugs in his ‘dream’ pictures. Most of the older fairy painters, whether pioneers like Reynolds, Fuseli and Blake or more senior Victorians such as Landseer, David Scott and Noel Paton, derived their subjects from literary sources, notably Shakespeare’s two plays with supernatural themes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. ‘Fairy’ Fitzgerald occasionally did likewise, but his most characteristic works represent a significant break with this tradition, showing fairy subjects that seem to be of his own invention. Often featuring birds and small animals, as well as fantastically attired denizens of the fairy kingdom, they have a hallucinatory quality, as if they were the products of drug-induced dreams. Harry Furniss remembered him with affection in his reminiscences: ‘He was a picturesque old chap, imbued with the traditions of the transpontine drama [i.e. the Old Vic] ... He had a mobile face, a twinkling eye, and his hair was long, thick and thrown back from his face ... He was known as “Fairy Fitzgerald” from the fact that his work, both in colour and black and white, was devoted to fairy scenes; in fact his life was one long Midsummer Night’s Dream’. — The Maas Gallery



Fantastic Illustration and Design in Britain, 1850-1930, exhib. cat. Providence, RI: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 1979.

Nahum, Peter. Fairy Folk in Fairy Land. London: Peter Naham at Leicester Galleries, 1997.

Zaczek, Iain. Angels and Fairies. London: Flame Tree Publishing, 2005.

Last modified 28 June 2022