Beatrix Potter: a life drawing nature

In her journal, Beatrix Potter said that she had an "irresistible desire to copy any beautiful object which strikes the eye". From an early age she sketched from nature, copied from book illustrations and occasionally created designs inspired by her own imagination.

Beatrix did not receive formal art lessons until the age of 12, when she was taught for five years by a Miss Cameron and sat examinations at the art schools attached to the South Kensington Museum (later renamed the V&A). Shortly after this, at 17, she had private lessons in oil painting with a professional artist called 'Mrs A'. By this time already quite accomplished as an artist, she also began to draw what she observed through microscopes with an eye of an investigative scientist.

Into her twenties Beatrix developed a meticulous watercolour dry brush technique and this coincided with her growing interest in fairy tales and inventing imaginary images featuring anthropomorphic animals. Adept at pen and ink line drawing, she would also write illustrated letters to children describing amusing or interesting anecdotes about her holidays, which would later morph into her hugely successful storybook career. The urge to sketch never left Beatrix and she continued to draw animals and landscapes even as she was heavily engaged in farming later in her life.

Explore a selection of highlights from Beatrix Potter's life drawing nature

Header image:

Detail: Magnified studies of a ground beetle (Carabus nemoralis), by Beatrix Potter, dated August 1887, watercolour, pen and ink and pencil on paper. Museum no. Linder Bequest BP.257. © Victoria & Albert Museum, London, courtesy Frederick Warne & Co Ltd.