Blowing bubbles from soapsuds with a ‘magic’ wand is one of the great pleasures of childhood. Watching the orbs shimmer, sparkle and pop as they float into the sky stimulates the imagination and has inspired several artists as can be seen at WMODA.

Bubble therapy is great for relaxation and stress relief for children and adults alike and many believe the glorious rainbow orbs are metaphors for transformation with their changing energy.

British Bubbles

One of the most famous paintings of the Victorian era by Sir John Everett Millais depicts a little boy blowing bubbles. Originally entitled A Child’s World, the painting of 1886 became better known as Bubbles after the Pears soap company used it successfully for advertising. Millais based his painting on 17th century Dutch Vanitas paintings of children blowing bubbles which emphasized the transience of life. Millais portrays his grandson looking up at a bubble, which symbolizes the beauty and fragility of life. Beside him are emblems of life and death, a plant growing in a pot, and a fallen, broken pot.

The Millais painting became controversial after the copyright was acquired by the director of A & F Pears who received permission to add a bar of Pears Soap for his advertising campaign. Millais was one of the most popular artists at that time and he was accused of prostituting his talent to sell soap. The advertisement became so well known that the little boy, who became an admiral in the British navy, was known as Bubbles throughout his life.

Japanese Bubbles

At the same time, the painting of Merciful Mother Kannon 1888 by Japanese artist Kanon Hogai was becoming a familiar image at exhibitions in the West. This image of a Japanese goddess with a baby in a bubble inspired Daisy Makeig Jones to create her famous Fairyland Lustre Bubbles design for Wedgwood.  In the Myths and Legends of Japan by Hadland Davis published in 1912, Kwannon or Kuan Yin, the Divine Mother poured the water of creation from a crystal phial and the holy water fell in a series of bubbles containing little babies. However, before the bubbles reached the Earth, many of them were seized by an evil Dragon, who devoured little children. Aghast, the Gods sent the Goddess Benton down to earth to tame the dragon. Her influence was so great that he abstained from slaughter. Ultimately, he ascended to heaven and became a celestial Dragon.

Fairyland Bubbles

Bubbles, depicting fairies blowing bubbles by a lake, is the rarest Fairyland Lustre design by Daisy Makeig-Jones. Charming on the surface, the scene is quite sinister, as can be seen in the story from Daisy’s 1921 booklet Some Glimpses of Fairyland. She tells of the Nix or water elf who owns everything that falls into the lake including the souls of people who have drowned. When they are freed, they rise up to the surface in bubbles and escape into the tree-tops where they encounter Arachne, the spider, who eats elves and fairies when she catches them.

Find out more in the video Daisy’s Dark Side in the Fantastique exhibit and on our Youtube channel.

Reflections of the World

Josephine Wall, an English fantasy artist, is also fascinated by bubbles and has shared many happy moments blowing bubbles with her children and grandchildren. She has used the reflective globes to reminisce on times past, escape into the realms of fantasy, and to imagine a more beautiful world for the future as she would like it to be. Some of her original paintings recently acquired by Arthur Wiener will be on display in September as an extension to the Fantastique exhibit.

Josephine’s mystical paintings take her audience on a journey through the magical world of their own imaginations. Like Daisy before her, she is inspired by the Golden Age of Fairy Tales represented by illustrators such as Arthur Rackham. She revels in the romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelite painters as well as the surrealism of Salvador Dali.

Josephine began her artistic career at the Poole Pottery in Dorset, where she painted the popular Delphis chargers and vases. She is a huge fan of Daisy’s Fairyland Lustre which speaks to her on many levels. Josephine’s love of nature combined with her fertile stream of ideas have created some enchanting ‘Art of the Imagination’, which can be experienced in many forms through her successful business in licensed prints, books, greeting cards, puzzles and jewelry. See some of her designs in the WMODA shop when visiting our Fantastique exhibition.

Fantastique Fairytale