What Millais thought of Beatrix Potter
On the 151st anniversary of her birth, we look back at Potter's art and the admiration it drew from one Pre-Raphaelite
The children’s author and illustrator Helen Beatrix Potter has delighted and entertained generations of children. Yet, Beatrix Potter also drew an adult audience for visual art and careful studies of nature, as our book Plant: Exploring the Botanical World, makes clear.
“This delicate watercolour study of the polyanthus narcissus displays a keen eye for detail and was clearly made from life, being faithful to the subject rather than simply decorative,” explains the text in our book Plant. “The artist, Helen Beatrix Potter, is most famous for the children’s books she wrote and illustrated, including her familiar classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Less well known is that she produced many other illustrations, especially still-life studies.
“Her father, Rupert Potter, was a talented photographer who encouraged his daughter to develop her artistic talent. Largely self-taught at first, she went on to take drawing lessons and also studied at the National Art Training School in South Kensington. She developed her own style, studying nature closely and faithfully reproducing what she saw.
“The famous Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir John Everett Millais told her: ‘Plenty of people can draw, but you have observation.’ Potter often visited the nearby museums in Kensington to deepen her knowledge of biology, and at the Victoria and Albert Museum she studied drawings, prints and costumes. It is fitting, then, that the V&A holds the world’s largest collection of her drawings, manuscripts, photographs and correspondence, in the Beatrix Potter Showcase.”