Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens tells The Truth About Faeries in illuminating style

By Culture24 Reporter | 06 December 2011
An image of a spectacular oil painting of a festive crowd inside a grand hall
© Courtesy Hartlepool Cultural Services
Exhibition: The Truth about Faeries, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland, until December 23 2011

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."

More pictures:

An image of a colourful illustration of a group of young women surrounding a small baby
Sleeping Beauty
© Archives of Ladybird Books, MMXI
An image of a luminous light blue splindly fairy in a helmet against a dark blue leafy background
Brian Froud, Tinkerbell© Brian Froud
An image of an illustration of a fairy sitting among flowers from a children's book. The primary colours are lilac and light green
The Flower Fairies, Mallow
© Archives of Ladybird Books MMXI
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