Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature

Victoria and Albert Museum London until 8 January 2023

This fascinating exhibition documents the life of the artist, author, natural historian, farmer and environmentalist who was Beatrix Potter. Most of us will have grown up with and loved the characters in her books and it is a privilege to learn more about the person behind them.

Beatrix, aged 15, with her beloved spaniel, Spot

The Original, Real Peter Rabbit

That Beatrix Potter had superb drawing skills, honed through much practise from an early age with the help of great teachers, goes without saying but it is her observational skills and meticulous attention to accurate detail that stop her stories, whilst anthropomorphic, being twee. The actions and reactions of her characters are based firmly in accurate depictions of the types of behaviour that the animals represented would exhibit, and they inhabit a believable and recognisable world.

Sketchbook aged nine

Of particular interest to embroiderers is “The Tailor of Gloucester”. When working on this book, Potter visited the Victoria and Albert Museum to study a fine example of an 18th Century embroidered waistcoat, which is still in the museum’s collection today.

18th Century Waistcoat

She was very particular in asking to see it laid flat on a table, having already a clear idea of how she wanted her illustration to look, and made detailed drawings of the garment and notes about the embroidered decoration.

Beatrix Potter’s Study Drawings and Notes

Her final book illustration clearly shows this detailed study of the waistcoat’s embroidered design.

Tailor of Gloucester Book Illustration

Compiled by Rosaline Darby


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