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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

John Anster Fitzgerald



John Anster Christian Fitzgerald (1819? – 1906) was a Victorian era fairy painter and portrait artist. He was nicknamed "Fairy Fitzgerald" for his main genre. Many of his fairy paintings are dark and contain images of ghouls, demons, and references to drug use; his work has been compared to the surreal nightmare-scapes of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel.

The year of his birth has been variously given, though 1819 is the likeliest. He was of Irish ancestry, the son of the minor poet William Thomas Fitzgerald.

As an artist, Fitzgerald appears to have been largely self-taught. His work was first shown at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1845; he also exhibited at the British Institution, the Society of British Artists, and the Watercolour Society. In the late 1850s he created a series of Christmas fairies for The Illustrated London News.

Fitzgerald gave his works titles that often gave little clear indication of their subjects; art dealers and collectors frequently re-named them, causing great confusion in his artistic canon. Some of Fitzgerald's titles, like The Pipe Dream and The Captive Dreamer, suggest that "Fitzgerald was familiar with the opium dens which, with choral and laudanum, represented the Victorian drug scene."

Fitzgerald created "remarkable fairy pictures of pure fantasy, rarely based on any literary theme."His paintings often use brilliant colors, especially reds, blues, and purples, as in The Captive Robin shown here. He produced a major series of paintings on the Cock Robin theme — among others, Who Killed Cock Robin?, Cock Robin Defending his Nest, and Fairies Sleeping in a Bird's Nest (the last furnished with a frame made out of twigs).

Fitzgerald had limited connections with other artists, or, apparently, other human beings. He existed mainly at his London club, the Savage Club. Fellow members, reminiscing of him post mortem, recalled that he was adept at imitating the great actors of earlier generations, Edmund Kean, Charles Kemble, and William Charles Macready.

The final work Fitzgerald exhibited at the Royal Academy, in 1902, was a picture of Alice in Wonderland. Twentieth-century art forgers have been active in creating phony Fitzgerald fairy pictures. The forgeries were discovered when analysis revealed modern pigments.











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