From folk mythology and classical theatre to contemporary film and dance, the mischievous and playful fairy has fascinated mankind for thousands of years. These intriguing and ethereal creatures, with the myths and legends that surround them, have never ceased to provide inspiration for artists and illustrators. From Puck to Peter Pan, children and adults alike have never really stopped believing in fairies. The earliest religions and superstitions had spirits and hobgoblins symbolizing the forces of nature, or watching over human infidelities. Although based on earlier myths and traditions, Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was a huge influence on the fantasies of generations of artists. Highly fashionable in the 18th century, fairy paintings were a foil for descreet eroticism in a time of prudity, and captured the spirit of national pride in their portrayal of an idealized English landscape. With the invention of photographic techniques came the opportunity to create realistic "spirit" photographs and elaborate hoaxes which captivated many respected figures. Accompanying the wide selection of bewitching paintings and engravings, fairy expert Beatrice Phillpotts follows the story of fairies from ancient mythology, through Shakespeare and Victorian art, to modern manifestations of fairy stories in the Disney films and beyond.
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