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Chasing Happiness: Maurice Maeterlinck, The Blue Bird and England

The Museum has recently had the good fortune to acquire, with the support of The Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, seven magnificent set designs for Maurice Maeterlinck’s so-called ‘fairy’ play, The Blue Bird, along with a watercolour study for the original poster.

All but one of the designs were painted by Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862-1927), one of the most intriguing and enigmatic British artists of the early twentieth century, the remaining design is by Sidney Sime (1867-1941), best remembered as an illustrator of fantasy literature.

The play enjoyed phenomenal success when first staged at the Haymarket Theatre in London in 1909. Maeterlinck himself later said that the designs ‘interpreted the story from within.’ Its cultural influence in the longer term was profound, reinforcing an associative link with happiness and the blue bird, that has led its being adopted as a name, or a symbol, for everything from face cream and biscuits, to racing cars, jewellery, speed boats and football strips!

Intended to complement the exhibition Literary Circles, this display celebrates the acquisition of these rare surviving designs and sets them in the context both of Maeterlinck’s symbolism and stage design in Edwardian England.

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Music from The Blue Bird

Tue 3 October 2006 to Sun 7 January 2007
Shiba Gallery (Gallery 14)
Free Admission