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Tate Britain Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG · Galleries · Mat Collishaw

Fairy Round

This display looks at how artists see fairies. It features sixteen artists from William Blake, 250 fifty years ago, to JMW Turner, to our own times and Mat Collishaw’s magical installation – an optical illusion of sixty-four animated figures in a boisterous fairy ring.

In the eighteenth century, artists painting scenes from William Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream imagined how fairies might look. Their wayward sprites dress in gossamer, petals and insect wings and lark in the moonlight, where a toadstool could be a seat, or a firefly a lamp.

The display is also a rare chance to see Richard Dadd’s Puck, one of the virtuoso fairy paintings that bought him celebrity, alongside the more personal and mysterious fairy scenes that he painted in the psychiatric hospital such A Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke.

These artists’ inventions, from Titania to the first Tinkerbell, form our idea of fairies today.