Cicely Mary Barker
CICELY MARY BARKER English (1895-1973)
Few artists are more closely associated with illustrations of fairies and flowers than English artist Cicely Mary Barker. Barker is best known for her illustrations combining portraits of children costumed as whimsical garden sprites. Born into a tightly-knit, middle class family in Croydon, Surrey, Barker suffered from epilepsy as a child, forcing her to spend much of her time indoors. She amused herself by sketching, drawing and painting, and soon developed a fondness for artists such as Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott, two children's book illustrators who would have tremendous influence on her career.
In 1908, Barker's father enrolled the 13-year old Cicely in correspondence courses and instruction at the Croydon School of Art. (Her affiliation with the school lasted well into the 1940s and included a tenured teaching appointment.) Three years later, in 1911, she sold her first drawings to Raphael Tuck & Sons, one of England's most successful greeting card businesses. Later that same year, she won second prize in the Croydon Art Society's poster competition, and was elected as a member of the Society itself, the youngest person to ever be so honored.
Her first major book, Flower Fairies of the Spring, was published in 1923. Using her sister's students as models and inspiration, she produced Flower Fairy books with Summer and Autumn themes as well. Her imaginative use of the various parts of the flora is seen in the inventive costumes created by flower petals, seed pods, leaves of the plants.
Barker died in 1973 at the age of 77. Her prints make especially thoughtful new baby gifts.