The V&A and the National Trust unite to explore the ‘extraordinary legacy’ of Beatrix Potter

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has partnered with the National Trust for an exhibit telling the life story of author Beatrix Potter.

Drawn to Nature will feature more than 240 personal items, including rarely seen letters, manuscripts, sketches, coded diaries and family photographs from both collections.

Potter, who lived between 1866 and 1943, remains well known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, but was also a distinguished naturalist and conservationist.

Paper print of Beatrix Potter, age 15, with her dog, Spot, by Rupert Potter c1880–1 (Vi & A courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co Ltd / PA)

Across four sections, the exhibition at the V&A in London will follow Potter’s journey from the capital to the Lake District, where she eventually settled.

The first section, Town and Country, will provide a backdrop to his childhood in South Kensington, London and feature key artifacts from Potter’s early years, including an album of family photographs taken by his father as well as works by art and furniture from the family home.

Under the Microscope, meanwhile, will highlight his interest in the natural sciences.

The section will feature a reinvention of the classroom she shared with her brother Bertram at Bolton Gardens in London, showcasing some of their earliest observational sketches, from the classroom menagerie to a cabinet used to store their collection of butterflies, beetles, bird eggs, seashells, rocks and fossils.

Tom Storey and Beatrix Potter with their award-winning sheep named Water Lily at the Eskdale Show on September 26, 1930 (National Trust / Robert Thrift / PA)

Potter has had over 92 pets in his lifetime and was inspired by some of them for his stories, most notably his domesticated rabbits Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper.

A Natural Storyteller will look at his journey to becoming a bestselling author before Living Nature explores his life in the Lake District and celebrates his impact on the natural landscape.

Potter later became an award-winning sheep farmer and a respected member of the local rural community, and visitors will be transported to the Lake District through an immersive video depicting life in the hills.

Annemarie Bilclough, Curator of Frederick Warne’s Illustration at the V&A, said: “Beatrix Potter was a city mouse who dreamed of being a country mouse.

Jemima Puddle-Duck made by JK Farnell & Co Ltd in England circa 1925 (Courtesy Frederick Warne & Co / PA)

“Visitors will be introduced to the extraordinary legacy of Potter’s storybooks, but in this exhibit they will discover how his talent for making his characters real grew out of a long-standing curiosity for the small details of nature, this which could almost have led her to another path.

“We hope that Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature inspires the next generation of artists and storytellers, but also naturalists, environmentalists and farmers.

“Potter’s story shows that through talent, passion and persistence, life can take unexpected turns and great things can develop from beginnings without consequence. “

Letter illustrated by Beatrix Potter sent to Noel Moore of Heath Park, Birnam, August 21, 1892 (Princeton University Library / PA)

Helen Antrobus, Deputy National Curator at the National Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the V&A to shine a light on the life and legacy of a remarkable, multi-faceted woman.

“The National Trust takes pride in caring for objects and places that were special to Beatrix.

“From Hill Top, his traditional Lake District farmhouse filled with trinkets and furniture and still presented as it was during Beatrix’s lifetime, to the vast estate of Monk Coniston and the 14 traditional Lakeland farms with their flocks of Herdwick sheep.

“Through her pioneering conservation efforts and the generous bequest of her homes, farms and lands to the National Trust, we are able to continue her legacy by caring for the landscape, traditions and way of life of the lakes that inspired Beatrix so they can continue to inspire others. “

Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature runs from February 12, 2022 to January 8, 2023.

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Mary Moser

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