Richard Doyle, Under the Dock Leaves, a watercolour

England, AD 1878

Elves and fairies dance below a canopy of dock leaves

Popular enthusiasm for fairy tales reached its peak in the nineteenth century. The Punch artist Richard, or 'Dicky', Doyle (1824-1883) was fascinated by them and his work as an illustrator included William Allingham's In Fairyland published in 1870. His nephew was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, who famously believed in the authenticity of the Cottingley fairy photographs. These were images of 'real' fairies taken by two young girls in 1920 who actually used cut-out watercolours.

The naturalism of the landscape in Under the Dock Leaves, contrasts with the element of fantasy. The tiny scale of the fairies is emphasised by placing them alongside dock leaves and a kingfisher which we know to be small in the observed world.

Find in the collection online

More information


L. Stainton, Nature into art: English lands (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

J. Maas and others, Victorian fairy painting (London, Royal Academy, 1997)

, Richard Doyle and his family (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983)


Height: 499.000 mm
Width: 776.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1886-6-19-17



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore