The stock in trade of painter Richard Dadd (1817-1886) was fairies as depicted in his most famous work The Fairy Fellers Master-Stroke. The multiple characters in the painting were immortalised on vinyl by the rock band Queen on their eponymous second album Queen II. Dadd’s picture is filled with tiny, meticulous detail and was nine years in the making but remained unfinished at his death. This is yet another one of those unfinished Master-Strokes that artistes leave lying around. The painter wrote a guide book about the painting signifying the various tasks assigned to the hundreds of fairies he had illustrated.
Suffering from a madness which caused him to commit patricide, Dadd was later confined to the mental institution Bethlem, which was commonly referred to as Bedlam. It was in here living the life of an asylum inmate that he created his greatest work of art. Transferred later to Broadmoor, and working only from memory, his work has an intensity that might not have been reproduced had he been sane.
Hanging in the Tate gallery London the vivid folklore of fairies takes the breath from out of your eyes and mouth. A dazzling kaleidoscope that lights up any midsummer’s night and gives credence to the theory that genius comes with a price. The genius of Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) inspired by this painting wrote the musical equivalent of what is seen in the original print. A quote attributed to the inimitable Freddie, and doing the rounds of numerous Queen Websites is fictional. Freddie at no time ever said “Dick Dadd killed his Dad.” This internet rumour was started by me. They’re easily taken in, those little Queenies unlike the rugby types.
The Queen song was performed live only rarely; the falsetto and multi-layered vocals were difficult to recreate on stage. For many Queen Fans this was their golden era before they commercialised. The song remains an undiscovered gem for most of the populace.
Ploughman wagoner will’ and types
Politician with senatorial pipe
He’s a dilly dally oh
Pedagogue squinting wears a frown
And a satyr peers under lady’s gown
He’s a dirty fellow
What a dirty laddie-oh
Tatterdemalion and the junketer
There’s a thief and a dragonfly trumpeter
He’s my hero ah
Fairy dandy tickling the fancy
Of his lady friend
The nymph in yellow (can we see the master stroke)
(Lyrics by Mercury)