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Beatrix Potter Drawn to Nature Exhibition at the V&A Museum

Frances has many years' experience writing about exhibitions in art galleries and museums.

Studio Portrait of Beatrix Potter in About 1892

Studio Portrait of Beatrix Potter about 1892 by Andrew Finlay Mackenzie. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Studio Portrait of Beatrix Potter about 1892 by Andrew Finlay Mackenzie. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Meet the Real Beatrix Potter

The V&A Museum and the National Trust have worked together drawing on their vast collections to present this amazing family-friendly exhibition about the life and work of author, artist, conservationist and naturalist Beatrix Potter.

Slender Parasol (Macrolepiota Mastoidea) Watercolour by Beatrix Potter 1896.

Slender Parasol (Macrolepiota Mastoidea) Watercolour by Beatrix Potter 1896. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Slender Parasol (Macrolepiota Mastoidea) Watercolour by Beatrix Potter 1896. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Storyteller, Artist, Natural Scientist and Conservationist

The exhibition features more than 250 rarely seen objects ranging from personal letters and diaries, photograph albums, commercial merchandise, manuscripts and book illustrations, to landscape paintings and scientific drawings of insects, animals and fungi.

Potter’s drawings of Benjamin Bunny, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Jemima Puddle-Duck are shown alongside drawings of the real-life places and animals that inspired them.

Sketchbook Used by Beatrix Potter Aged 10

Sketchbook Used by Beatrix Potter Aged 10. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Sketchbook Used by Beatrix Potter Aged 10. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Layout of the Exhibition

Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature is set out in four sections.

Town and Country

Town and Country reveals Potter’s life in Bolton Gardens, South Kensington, where she was not at all happy and her eventual move to the Lake District. The display features Beatrix’s earliest drawings and notebooks, personal letters and photo albums together with furniture from the family home.

Beatrix and Bertram's Cabinet

Beatrix and Bertram's Cabinet. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Beatrix and Bertram's Cabinet. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

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Under the Microscope

Under the Microscope re-imagines the schoolroom Beatrix shared with her brother Bertram at Bolton Gardens. The schoolroom showcases early sketches of the children’s pets which included rabbits, mice, frogs, bats, and lizards. During her lifetime Beatrix had more than 90 pets! Many of these inspired her stories.

Brother and sister shared an interest in scientific study and mycology and the exhibition features the cabinet they used to house their vast collection of rocks and fossils, beetles, butterflies, shells and bird’s eggs.


Doll's House Furniture Given to Beatrix by Norman Warne

Caption Doll’s House Furniture. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Caption Doll’s House Furniture. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

A Natural Storyteller

In A Natural Storyteller we discover how she became a best-selling author almost by accident. The display explores her relationship with Norman Warne, her publisher whom she was about to marry. She had an idea for a story about mice looting a doll’s house – “The tale of Two Bad Mice”. Warne made a glass-fronted doll’s house for Beatrix’s pet mice to play in. He also sent her some furniture for it. Sadly, they never married due to Warne’s unexpected death.

Jemima Puddle-Duck Doll

Jemima Puddle-Dock Doll. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Jemima Puddle-Dock Doll. Image by Frances Spiegel (2022) with permission from the V&A. All Rights Reserved.

Living Nature

The final section, Living Nature, is set in the Lake District and Potter’s home Hill Top Farm. While living here she wrote the much-loved story “The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck”. The photo shows a Jemima Puddle-Duck doll.

Potter became an award-winning sheep farmer, acquiring several neighbouring farms and working constantly at the conservation of the land. She bequeathed more than 4,000 acres of farmland and cottages to the National Trust and if you visit the Lake District you can see her home laid out as it was during her lifetime.

Speaking recently, Annemarie Bilclough, the V&A’s Frederick Warne Curator of Illustration, said: “We hope to inspire the next generation of artists and storytellers, but also natural scientists, conservationists and farmers. Potter’s story shows that through talent, passion and perseverance, life can take unexpected twists and turns and great things can grow from inconsequential beginnings.”

Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature can be seen from 12th February 2022 to 8th January 2023. Further information and tickets can be obtained from the V&A Museum.

© 2022 Frances Spiegel

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