Lady Lever Art Gallery presents Flower Fairies exhibition

The Lady Lever Art Gallery will explore 100 years of Cicely Mary Barker’s ethereal illustrations in a new exhibition Flower Fairies – from 15 April to 5 November 2023.

In association with Penguin Ventures (part of Penguin Random House UK), the exhibition looks at the delicate work created by Barker. 

Flower Fairies, features around 45 exquisite and botanically accurate, original illustrations, including Barker’s best-loved flower fairy creations and early sketches, alongside digital projections, items from National Museums Liverpool’s botany collection and costumes inspired by the fairies, designed by award-winning costume designer Vin Burnham.  

Fiona Slattery Clark, Curator of Decorative Art at National Museums Liverpool (NML), is a co-curator of the exhibition, alongside David Moffat, Assistant Curator at NML.  

Fiona said, “Flower Fairies will consider the influences on Cicely Mary Barker’s art. Barker was inspired by the books of Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway, whose precise use of line and vibrant colour influenced her work, as well as Pre-Raphaelites artists whose work features in Lady Lever Art Gallery’s permanent collection. 

“We are displaying Barker’s art next to examples of herbarium sheets from NML’s collection. Barker studied plants in minute detail and her illustrations are always botanically accurate, so we wanted to highlight and celebrate that. 

“The exhibition also considers the popularity of fairies in the 1920s when Cicely Mary Barker first created the Flower Fairies. One hundred years on, the Flower Fairies continue to bring joy to people around the world. These charming illustrations celebrate the beauty of nature and the innocence of childhood. They offer a unique combination of fantasy and naturalism, opening a window into a magical fairyland blooming with flowers.” 

The cultural impact of Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies can still be seen in the modern era through high fashion and popular culture. In Spring 2022, Gucci created a range of clothing and accessories adorned with characters created by Barker, and musician Billie Eilish drew inspiration from the book Fairyopolis for a recent tattoo. 

Sara Glenn, Commercial Curator at Penguin Ventures said, “It has been a pleasure working with the Lady Lever Art Gallery on the Flower Fairies™ exhibition, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first printing of Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies of the Spring.  

“Highlights on loan from the Warne Archive will include a selection of original Flower Fairy artworks and three beautiful costumes specially created in quarter scale by Vin Burnham.  

“We’re so excited to help bring this exhibition to the Lady Lever Art Gallery and hope that visitors of all ages will enjoy stepping into the magical world that Cicely created 100 years ago.” 

Flower Fairies at the Lady Lever Art Gallery opens on 15 April and runs until 5 November. Tickets are free, with a suggested donation, and available to the public from 22 February 2023. For more information, please visit

Image: Endpaper from The Book of the Flower Fairies © The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker, 1927

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