June 20, 2016
The Beatrix Potter Collection, along with other collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, are stored in Blythe House. Plans are in the works to move the V&A collections to a new location by 2020 because Blythe House is being sold.
Curator Emma Laws had selected a nice array of drawings and other items to tell Potter’s story. Ms. Laws had worked with the collection for fifteen years and so was extremely familiar with her life. She described a lone, bright child who intently studied the natural world. One of the items on display was a sketchbook of creatures such as caterpillars done when Potter was only eight years old. She was not afraid of dead animals and even killed, boiled and then stuffed a bat at one point in her childhood.
As was the custom of the day Potter was schooled at home while her brother actually went outside the home for his education. However, her parents were very interested in providing her with an education, including art lessons for a few years. Her natural history studies lasted for many years and enabled her to draw animals in great detail. Her best art mediums were water color and pencil, and Ms. Laws demonstrated through the archive how Potter’s art changed later in her life when she had married and moved to the Lake District.
The Beatrix Potter Collection was gifted to the V&A over a period of years by different individuals. It contains 100,000 children’s books and 270 pencil drawings, many of which can be found online. 2016 is the 150th anniversary of this creative woman’s birth.
I found this to be a fun visit, having collected and read some of Beatrix Potter’s books to my children and now to my grandchild; but I learned so much more about her than the bit I had known previously! She was obviously a meticulous, talented, and strong woman who grew to be very wealthy as a result. Her diaries, which the V&A has from age fifteen through age thirty, were written in a code that Potter devised herself. The code took five years to break and the translation took four more years! An astounding individual on all accounts!
(Curator Emma Laws and Andrew Wiltshire, author and Beatrix Potter Society board member are featured in the photograph of this blog post.)