John Anster Fitzgerald

English, 1819-1906

Fairy Hordes Attacking a Bat, c. 1860s

Watercolor and gouache on paper

14 x 21 ¼ inches

While little is known of John Anster Fitzgerald’s background or artistic training, he was considered one of the most prolific artists of the fairy painting genre in nineteenth century Britain, even earning the nickname, “Fairy Fitzgerald.” Aside from his fairy paintings of the 1850s and 1860s, Fitzgerald also painted landscapes, historical scenes, and portraits throughout his career.

In the present work, Fairy Hordes Attacking a Bat, a group of beautifully rendered fairies and insects surround an oncoming bat with outstretched wings. Fitzgerald has painted the figures in the foreground with meticulous detail, each fairy donning a colorful and unique costume and with translucent wings in fantastical shades. Bathed in moonlight, the scene is set in a dense thicket of branches. Many of Fitzgerald’s paintings depict similar scenes of fairies, goblins, and wood sprites attacking mice or birds, and feature themes of sleep and dreams. The sinister nature of his works suggests Fitzgerald’s influence of Hieronymus Bosch, whose prints were widely available in the nineteenth century.