I don’t have clear memories of reading Beatrix Potter as a child. I do have some vague feeling of familiarity with The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Two Bad Mice, so I must have read them at some point. In any case I had enough familiarity and fondness that I wanted to introduce them to my children and sometime after Bella was born I bought The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter.
Miss Potter with Renee Zellweger introduced me to Beatrix Potter’s biography. And I was quite impressed by her insistence that the books be of a particular size and be laid out in a certain way. Inspired by that knowledge I set out to acquire as many as I could of the small books published by F. Warne & Co, Potter’s original publisher. This turns out to have been a wise move for it seems to be the small format of these books which draws Bella to them.
So Beatrix Potter has been on my brain quite a bit, as any frequent reader of this blog can tell. The other day I discovered The Art of Beatrix Potter on my bookshelf. I think I’ve had it for years and years, probably since before I moved to Massachusetts; but I don’t remember when or where I acquired it. I suspect it was a gift from my mom. In any case, with Bella’s new found obsession with all things Beatrix Potter, it caught my eye and I decided to pull it out and take a look. Honestly, I don’t know if I ever read it or did more that a cursory flip through when I first got it. At least I have no memory of any of the book.
This is a beautiful volume, a treasure whose value I didn’t appreciate until now. It isn’t primarily a history or a biography, but a collection of her artwork with notes that introduce each section that do give some biographical context for the work.
It is divided as follows:
Part One: Her Work as an Artist
- Early Work
- Houses, Village Scenes and Landscape
- Gardens, Plant Studies and Still Life
- Microscopic Work and Drawings of Fungi
- Animal Studies
Part Two: Her Art in Relation to Her Books
- Imaginary Happenings in the Animal World
- Early Ideas for Illustrated Books
- Her Books—Some Preliminary Sketches and Finished Work
- Photographs of Hil Top and Sawrey Associated with Beatrix Potter and Her Work
As I page through this lovely 400 page book with over 300 reproductions in color and monochrome (I dare say more than half of them are color), visions of future school lessons dance in my head. I can see myself using this volume in conjunction with art lessons and as part of an in-depth study of Potter as an artist and author. It would also be handy in conjunction with inspiring nature study and nature notebooking.