Artist Inspiration: Beatrix Potter

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This month I am beginning a new series called "Artist Inspiration" which will focus on the efforts of naturalist or botanical artists throughout history as a source of inspiration today.  It will be a way for me to further study the work of artists I admire and to share the beauty they create (or have created) so you can be inspired too!

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

The first artist I selected is Beatrix Potter.  Her famous watercolor illustrations and sweet stories of animals, featured in the book shown above, have been celebrated year after year, especially near Easter, as generations of young children discover the magical tales of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Tom Kitten and others. Potter's unique and creative vision lives on through the delightful characters and lovely renderings of nature that so infuse her work.  An attentiveness to detail and ability to bring personality to the small animals that lived in her garden distinguishes her work from that of other illustrators and makes her unique vision of the natural world paramount in our hearts.

Pages from The Tale of Peter Rabbit

One of the most recognizable aspects of Potter's art is the charming way she animates her animal characters and humanizes them for her audience.  Her most well-known character, Peter Rabbit, is as famous for his darling blue jacket and bunny shoes as for his mischevious journey into Mr. McGregor's garden, a place where humanity and nature collide, where little rabbits were not welcome.  The fence that separated Mr. McGregor's garden from the natural terrain outside formed a division between the human world and the land of animals. 

A bunch of tulips in watercolor and pencil by Beatrix Potter

Potter's portrayal of nature is also an inspiring aspect of her art.  Some works, like the illustration of tulips above, show a scientific fascination with nature in their detail and accuracy. Others, like the landscape below, reflect a more poetic vision of the natural world through impressionistic watercolors and nature sketches. 

Kirkcudbright Bay, Scotland- a watercolor by Beatrix Potter

If you are interested in reading more about Beatrix Potter's fine art work, the book below, Beatrix Potter's Art, by Anne Stevenson Hobbs is one of my favorites as it provides a lovely survey of Potter's art and many beautiful color plates. Hobbs is curator of the National Art Library's Beatrix Potter collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  See the museum's link for further information about the collection.

Beatrix Potter's Art, by Anne Stevenson Hobbs
For a more lighthearted celebration of Beatrix Potter's children's art, the official website of Peter Rabbit provides information about about her life and children's books along with many fun interactive features.
The movie Miss Potter (2006), starring Renee Zellweger is also a fun and informative exploration of her life and contribution to both art and literature.

Happy Easter to all!

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