I first discovered Beatrix Potter (1886-1943) when a friend showed me her prized copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in the 1970s. Although I’d heard the title mentioned while growing up, I’d never had a chance to hold the book in my hands and peruse the captivating pastel watercolor illustrations.
When I became pregnant with my first child, I bought a sheet printed with Potter animal characters, and sewed curtains for the nursery from it. And I started collecting books in the series. (I never acquired all twenty-three of them, but by the time our fifth child was born, I had a generous sampling. Alas, only two remain, the others having been loved to pieces by my children.)
Potter grew up in the Kensington district of London, her only companions being her nanny, her governess, and her six-years-younger brother, Bertram. Secluded on the family estate, the children enjoyed the outdoors and all flora and fauna. They loved to draw, and their parents encouraged them by providing instructors and supplies. Beatrix particularly became a keen observer of nature, and created realistic detailed drawings of plants and animals.
As an adult, she became a respected illustrator and mycologist (a scientist who studies fungi). Potter loved to paint fantastical watercolors of her pets, including her rabbits. She wrote letters to young friends and illustrated them with drawings. In fact, her first draft of Peter Rabbit was actually a story she wrote in a letter to the young son of her former governess. She later revised it and sent it to six different publishers, who rejected it. She self-published it for her friends, and then Frederick Warne & Co. reconsidered it, and the rest is history.
She created many beloved characters, such as Mr. Tod, shown below with Jemima,
also Pigling Bland, Miss Moppet, and, of course, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.
To enjoy the art of Beatrix Potter more fully, visit the official Peter Rabbit website.