With my kids back to school and fall settling in, I finally feel like I'm back to giving this project 100%. Here's week 2 of my Beatrix Potter study.
I'm always on the lookout for connections with the other artists that I've studied this year. Frida Kahlo also had several rather unusual pets including a deer, spider monkey, and hawk (among many others). Beatrix's father was an amateur photographer; Frida's was a professional photographer.
There's a lot of similarities in the color palettes of Beatrix Potter and Louise Bourgeois. Louise attributed her color choices to growing up in the tapestry business that her parents' ran. Beatrix's grandparents were in the fabric business. Her father's father owned the largest calico printing works in England. Her mother's father was a wealthy cotton merchant. Possibly fabric also played a role in her color selections.
While Beatrix was doing all that research with fungi, she was also illustrating fairy tales and stories, like these of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Cinderella from 1893 and 1895. And then the things around her (the mushrooms, the rabbit, the other pets) began making their way into those illustrations.
In the 1890s' Beatrix and her brother Bertram began to print Christmas cards of their own designs as a way to earn money. Mice and rabbits were the most frequent subject for the cards. Later their printer, Hildesheimer and Faulkner bought several of Beatrix's rabbit paintings to illustrate verses by Frederic Weatherly in a small book titled A Happy Pair.
Beatrix often wrote letters to the children of her former governess, Annie Moore. Annie was only a few years older than Beatrix and it seems that Beatrix had a relationship with Annie's children like that of an aunt or godmother. She included stories and illustrations in the letters and it was in a letter to Noel that the story of Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter began.
In 1900, Annie suggested that the stories and the pictures might make interesting books for children. Beatrix revised Peter's story and added more illustrations. She sent it to six publishers, only to have it returned with lukewarm interest and suggestions to shorten/lengthen the story and to add color illustrations. Beatrix was determined to keep the book small and in black and white so that it was affordable to children. She withdrew her savings and printed 250 copies of the story herself. It was popular among friends and family so a few months later, she printed 200 more copies.
In June of 1902 after 6 months of negotiations over size, cost, and color, Beatrix signed a contract with publisher Federick Warne & Co. Beatrix set out to revise and create color illustrations for The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She started out by adding color to the line illustrations in her original book and then unhappy with those results, she created entirely new illustrations.
I think it's interesting to look at all the things Beatrix did that eventually led Peter Rabbit. We often say that an artist came out of nowhere and it's only because we don't know all the things they worked on that led to the one thing that became popular.
Finally, I thought I'd end the week with a Beatrix inspired rabbit of my own.