Fairy Tales: ‘The Nightingale & the Rose’ reimagined


Youthful transgressions and immaturity play out in many fairy tales, but few are as heartbreaking as Oscar Wilde’s original tale, ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, one of five stories in The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888), his collection written for children. This affecting tale exploring themes of unrequited love, sacrifice and superficiality is captured by artist Del Kathryn Barton and filmmaker Brendan Fletcher, in The Nightingale and the Rose 2015 now screening in the ‘Fairy Tales‘ exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).

Buy Tickets to ‘Fairy Tales’
Until 28 April 2024
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

In this story, a young student pines for the attention of his professor’s daughter, who toys with his affections. She promises the lovesick student a dance if he can find her a red rose, but none exist. Hearing the student’s laments and mistaking them for a call of true love, a nightingale undertakes a ritual to produce a red rose by piercing her chest with a thorn and singing until she is drained of blood, a red rose blooming on her demise. The student picks the rose and rushes to the girl, only to be spurned for another man who has bought her jewels.

Originally commissioned as an illustrated book by the journal Art+Australia, Barton’s images have been reimagined in this moving-image work with the look and feel of stop-motion animation. Of the story, Barton has said: ‘the Nightingale is the true artist as she gives completely of her deepest essence’.

Note to parents and carers viewing the animation screening in the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition: The Nightingale and the Rose contains a short scene of stylised animated violence.

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Del Kathryn Barton (artist/director), Australia b.1973 / Brendan Fletcher (director), Australia / The Nightingale and the Rose 2015, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) Brisbane 2023

Del Kathryn Barton (artist/director), Australia b.1973 / Brendan Fletcher (director), Australia / Production stills from The Nightingale and the Rose 2015 / Single-channel video: 14 minutes, colour, sound / Animators: Chris Breeze, Simon Bronson, David Edwards, Liz Ellis, Richard Swan; Music: Sarah Blasko / Gift of Del Kathryn Barton through the QAGOMA Foundation 2022. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Del Kathryn Barton

Watch | The making of ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’

QAGOMA Research Library

Two copies of the signed, limited edition copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and The Rose — illustrated with artworks by Del Kathryn Barton (5th ed., Dott Publishing, an imprint of ARTAND Foundation, 2016) — have been generously gifted by the artist and are available for viewing in the QAGOMA Research Library during the exhibition ‘Fairy Tales’. This collaboration between Art & Australia and Del Kathryn Barton has resulted in a lusciously illustrated publication.

The QAGOMA Research Library is located on Level 3 of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Open to the public Tuesday to Friday 10.00am to 5.00pm. visit us in person or explore the online catalogue. Access to special collections is available by appointment. To contact the Library, call (07) 3842 9557.

Book covers of Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and The Rose illustrated with artworks by Del Kathryn Barton

Watch | Brisbane’s enchanting exhibition comes to GOMA this summer

Del Kathryn Barton (artist/director), Australia b.1973 / Brendan Fletcher (director), Australia / The Nightingale and the Rose (still) 2015

The ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition is at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Australia from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

Fairy Tales Cinema: Truth, Power and Enchantment‘ presented in conjunction with GOMA’s blockbuster summer exhibition screens at the Australian Cinémathèque, GOMA from 2 December 2023 until 28 April 2024.

The major publication ‘Fairy Tales in Art and Film’ available at the QAGOMA Store and online explores how fairy tales have held our fascination for centuries through art and culture.

From gift ideas, treats just for you or the exhibition publication, visit the ‘Fairy Tales’ exhibition shop at GOMA or online.

‘Fairy Tales’ merchandise available at the GOMA exhibition shop or online.