Exhibition: The Truth about Faeries, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, until December 23 2011
© Courtesy Hartlepool Cultural Services
From the "golden age" of illustration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the Cottingley fake fairy photographs championed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this well-timed show runs amok with brownies, goblins and trolls, fluttering along an otherworldly gauntlet ranging from Ladybird books to depictions by Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones.
At its heart, alongside a special fairy grotto where children can dress up and enjoy stories and activities, is a spectacular, enormous 19th century painting of The Sleeping Beauty, on-loan from Hartlepool Museum and Art Gallery, where it won a People's Choice vote for the most loved work in the collection in 2006, having been donated by founder Sir William Gray almost a century ago.
This is the first time it has been on public view since a painstaking-sounding renovation which included the removal of a thick layer of dirt and repairs to damage caused by water splashes and scratches in the varnish and paint.
"The painting required 23 hours of specialist conservation work to restore it to peak condition," says Jean-Philippe Stienne, the Collections Access Officer responsible for it in Hartlepool.
"It looks fantastic now – the colours are extremely vibrant and it has helped the painting to regain some of its mystical qualities."
© Archives of Ladybird Books, MMXI
© Brian Froud
© Archives of Ladybird Books MMXI