Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature


“Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature” (thru Jan. 7, 2024), is a playful, interactive exhibition that invites visitors of all ages to rediscover one of the most renowned authors of children’s fiction in the 20th century, exploring the places and animals that inspired Potter’s beloved stories including “The Tale of Peter Rabbit™,” “The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle” and “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.” Through more than 125 personal objects — including sketches, watercolors, rarely seen letters, coded diaries, commercial merchandise, paintings and experimental books — the exhibition will also examine Potter’s life as a strong-minded and imaginative businessperson, natural scientist, farmer and preservationist, a legacy that extends to the present. The exhibition, which is organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is the latest in the High’s popular series celebrating children’s book art and authors.

Finished drawing for 'The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle."

Born in London, Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) was passionate about animals and the natural world from an early age, and this sparked her career as a world-famous author and illustrator, published by Frederick Warne & Co. since 1902, with her stories remaining in print ever since. Her interest in nature also influenced all other aspects of her life, leading her to significant achievements in both art and science. “Drawn to Nature” connects key elements of her creative practice, from building characters and observing nature to telling stories and conserving the environment.

Beatrix Potter at age 9.

The first section of the exhibition focuses on how Potter developed the beloved characters that inspired her most famous stories, including “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny” and “The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck,” among others. She modeled her characters on animals familiar to her, and her stories were informed by her careful observations of nature. These galleries include many of her initial character sketches and show how she paired human and animal characteristics and added context through clothing and backgrounds to build richly imagined worlds.

The second section explores Potter’s scientific observations and  features a cabinet of curiosities displaying collected objects alongside her realistic nature drawings of animals, insects and fungi created throughout her youth.

“Drawn to Nature” also explores Potter’s extraordinary abilities as a storyteller, illustrator and entrepreneur. From her mid-20s, Potter translated her close observation of animals and nature into intricate pictorial storytelling. Her pets stirred her imagination, and she described and illustrated their antics in letters to children. She also sold holiday cards featuring her drawings and designs. These letters and illustrations became the basis for her stories, and in 1902, she signed a publishing deal. 

Finished drawing for 'The Tale of  Benjamin Bunny."

In the exhibition’s final section, watercolors, personal items and drawings underscore Potter’s love for England’s Lake District and her work to conserve its landscape and local farming culture. Following her permanent move there, which inspired many of her children’s books, she recognized how much locals and visitors alike treasured the region. When she saw modern development threatening what made it unique, she used her privilege and position to help protect the area. She built up flocks of Herdwick sheep, which were in danger of dying out, and ensured the landscape would be protected forever by England’s National Trust. On her death in 1943, she left the charity thousands of acres of her own land and 14 working farms.

Thank you, High Museum of Art!


Popular Posts