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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ruby Reeves - An Enchanting Fairyland





These exquisitely detailed paintings are the work of South African artist Ruby Reeves (1904-1986).
I came across them while looking for pictures I had in mind for last week's post.  I've not thought of including them before because the quality is not great - they are cuttings from a magazine (Ster - the Afrikaans word for star) and you can even see the date in one of the details below - 2nd May 1974.  At the time I would have stuck these on my bedroom wall where they must have complimented my Sulamith Wulfing posters beautifully.





It was only when I looked online and realised how little is out there of this artist's work that I decided to put together this post today.  If you would like to see more of her art this Facebook page contains additional examples as does this site called Rust en Vrede (if you swap the two words around it would translate to 'peace and quiet').



This painting called 'Midsummer's Night' or 'The Fairy Queen's Birthday' is possibly her most well known work.  I used to spend hours studying the detail when I was young, imagining living in this magical land.  This is what I always imagined Tolkein's Rivendell looked like and I longed to explore this enchanting landscape.  It was only when I scanned and cropped these images today that I noticed some of the details again I had forgotten - if you look at the picture below on the right you'll find faces in the tree and I'd missed the fairies dancing around the queen's head like a halo.  These would both make beautiful paintings in their own right.      




It also struck me looking at these again that Ruby Reeves must have been familiar with the work of Danish artist Kay Nielsen. (There is an example of one of his illustrations - Sleeping Beauty - on my sidebar )   I can see a lot of similarities between the two, especially the gates in the illustration above left and the details of the clothing below. 





I painted the picture below in my 20's during a period when I was besotted with Nielsen's work and emulating his style in everything I did.  I'm sorry you can't see the figure next to the tree terribly well - her clothing is very similar to that produced by both Nielsen and Ruby Reeves.




This Facebook entry contains a detailed biography about Ruby Reeves.  I was interested to read that she worked mainly at night and used a magnifying glass to create this incredibly fine detail.  She lived on her own but was never alone - the fairy world kept her company and she had a special favourite called Marion.

Another lovely painting - I enlarged the figure on the right to show off her beautiful gown:







I'm sorry these two examples are not in colour although there is a detail of the one below to give some idea of what the original looks like.  I've always pictured the dress to be pale blue.




Ruby Reeves lived in George (a lovely town on the Cape Garden Route) from 1955 until her death in 1986.  The George Museum has some of her work on display - I'm sorry I was not aware of that when we were last in South Africa as I would love to see her paintings close up.  I was in the vicinity - my husband's parents live in nearby Knysna so I could easily have paid the museum a visit.  I don't have any photos of George but have included some of the Knysna / Wilderness area so you can get some idea of what it looks like and the landscape that might have inspired some of Ruby Reeves' work.


The view from my in-laws house



The Knysna Heads are quite a famous landmark in South Africa.








9 comments:

Barbara said...

I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve seen these gorgeous paintings. The illustration with the castle in the background is exquisite. I agree about the similarities with Kay Nielsen, but I also think the picture of the fairy and the frog looks very like the work of Ida Rentoul Outhwait.

Have you included your painting in a previous post? It feels very familiar to me and not just because it looks so like the Kay Nielsen illustration. Maybe you include another of your paintings with the same kind of ‘feel’ as this one. You are so talented Sharon. I am in awe!

It’s a bit late in the evening now, but I will be back another day to visit the links.
Thank you for sharing this.

Sharon Souter said...

Thanks Barbara! - well spotted - I cropped a photo that was in the post I did for Kylie's retro corner of my home linky - it is the same painting!

Regarding Ruby Reeves - I don't think SA artists get the same exposure as those from the rest of the world - I wouldn't expect many people to have seen these illustrations before - one of the reasons I wanted to do this post.

Darlene said...

Delightful paintings. What detail! One could look upon them for hours. I can see why they hung on your bedroom wall when you were a child. You could disappear into them at anytime.

GardenOfDaisies said...

How delightful. So many tiny details. Love the whole midsummer/fairyqueen theme here, as I got to act in the Shakespeare play when I was a girl. (I was one of the fairies.) It does have a Rivendell look about it, doens't it? Love the painting you did yourself!

DMS said...

I would have hung that castle on my bedroom wall when I was growing up! It is enchanting illustration that could keep me entertained for hours!

Thank you so much for sharing information about Ruby and examples of her work. I don't recall ever hearing of her before- but her work is so detailed and interesting. I hope you get to visit the museum the next time you are in the area!

Also- the painting you created is beautiful. :)

A lovely visit here today. :)
Stephanie

Tam said...

Thanks for sharing the artwork. The quality of the magazine pages doesn't matter. The quality of the work shows through.They're beautiful.I can see the Sulamith Wulfing in them. Your painting is gorgeous too!

Donna Yates said...

What detail in those illustrations. I loved the fairy picture, but then I'm fond of fairy pictures. That is a beautiful country you have there.

CraveCute said...

These are just incredible! So intricate and lovely! I have never seen this work nor heard of the artist before. Thank you for enlightening me!

Ruth Lockyer said...

Hi,
I am a poet and I saw Ruby Reeves fairy paintings at the Museum in George in 2008. It prompted me to write a poem. To read my poem please google 'Horsham Writers Circle' and go to Ruth's blog.

Link/within

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