Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is known to many as the creator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and many other children’s stories. What may not be know is that Beatrix Potter was an accomplished scientific illustrator and an astute businesswoman. Both of these attributes added to her success as a children’s book author and illustrator.
Beatrix Potter and her pet rabbit “Benjamin Bouncer”
Beatrix Potter was born in London in 1866 into an affluent family. She enjoyed time at her family’s city home and in the countryside. Beatrix and her brother Bertram had a menargie that included mice, rabbits and a hedgehog. When the family travelled to the countryside Beatrix was fascinated with her natural surroundings and explored them through drawing.
Beatrix Potter’s watercolor drawing of “Boar Fish”, 1895.
Beatrix Potter watercolor and pen and ink drawing of “Studies of a Dead Thrush”, 1902.
The “Beatrix Potter, The Picture Letters” exhibition at the Morgan Library in New York is a must see for any Potter enthusiast. The show focuses on Beatrix Potter’s many beautifully illustrated letters she wrote to children. She corresponded with over forty children including her former governesses’ family. Perhaps her most important correspondence was with young Noel Moore for whom she wrote the Tale of Peter Rabbit complete with lively pen and ink drawings. The model for Peter was Beatrix Potter’s own pet rabbit that she described as “An affectionate companion and quite friend.”
Beatrix Potter’s sketches of her pet rabbit Peter, 1899.
Beatrix attributed her success to the fact that her stories were written for “real children”- indeed a particular child. Her studies of animals from life and scientific investigation of mushrooms, plants and landscape add an unusual freshness to her illustrations. The animals are not mawkish or oversentimental. Her animal characters keep a sense of the animal they are drawn from.
Beatrix Potter’s illustrated letter “Peter’s Dream of a Comfortable Bed” 1899.
The exhibition includes early board games, stuffed animals and figurines based on the various Potter stories, ever the businesswoman Potter kept copyright and control of her famous characters.
Beatrix Potter’s watercolor and pen and ink drawing “His mother put him to bed,
and made some camomille tea”, 1907.
I highly recommend a visit to the Morgan Library to enjoy this delightful exhibition!