Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Life of Beatrix Potter in Photos

Beatrix Potter was an English author and illustrator of imaginative children's books that featured animal characters, with Peter Rabbit the most famous.  Even though she has been deceased for 70 years, she remains one of the world's best-selling, and best-loved children's authors, with her 23 books selling over a 100 million copies, that have been translated into 35 languages, as well as in braille.

Helen Beatrix Potter was born in Kensington, London, England on July 28, 1866.  Her parents, Rupert and Helen Potter, provided a privileged home and lifestyle for Beatrix and her brother, Bertram, who was six years younger, but she had few friends beyond her extended family, and numerous small pets.

Childhood Photos 
[Internet  photo sources have been given wherever possible]

An 1874 photo below of Beatrix with her parents.  Both of her parents were artistically talented.  Her mother was said to be very demanding.

[Photo Credit: Frederick Warne & Co.]

Age 6

[Photo credit:  Frederick Warne & Co.]

Beatrix with her dog, Spot.

Beatrix, age 12, with brother Bertram,  parents and dog, Spot.

[Photo Credit:  Frederick Warne & Co.]

Below, Beatrix, age 15, with Spot, her Springer Spaniel, taken in Scotland.  For most of the first 15 years of her life she spent summer holidays away from London, in Scotland.  Her first summer holiday in the Lake District, was in 1882.

[Photo Credit:  Frederick Warne and Co.]

She was educated by three private governesses until she was 18.  Her art lessons began in 1878 [age 12], and she received her first art award in 1880. 

[Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

In 1885 [age 19] Beatrix became seriously ill with rheumatic fever, and had to have her long hair cut short.  

[Photo credit: Princeton University Library]

Beatrix with her father, and brother, Bertram.

[Photo credit:  Bloomsbury/BNPS]

Beatrix with her father and Bertram.

Beatrix bought her pet rabbit, Benjamin Bouncer, at a pet shop in 1890.

[photo credit: Penguin Group, London]

Beatrix sold six watercolor paintings in 1892, and the Tale of Peter Rabbit [commercial edition] was first published by Frederick Warne and Company in 1902. It was an immediate success.

Her book editor, Norman Warne, proposed to her in July 1905 [age 39], despite the disapproval of her parents.  He died suddenly of leukemia a month later on Aug. 25.

Below, Beatrix at the backdoor of Hill Top - summer of 1913.  She bought the 17th century farmhouse in 1905 with the royalties from her first books.  When she died, she left it to the National Trust with the stipulation that it be kept exactly as she left it, complete with her furniture and china.  It opened to the public in 1946.

She bought Castle Cottage Farm in 1909, opposite Hill Top, and it became her main Lake District home after she married.  Hill Top became her private studio and workshop.

She left 15 farms and over 4,000 acres of land to the National Trust upon her death on December 22, 1943, at age 77.

[Photo credit:  Penguin Group, London]

Beatrix's Engagement to William Heelis - 1912.  Her parents disapproved of him too! 

[Photo credit:  National Trust, London]

Below wedding photo of Beatrix [age 47] to William on October 14, 1913 in Kensington, London. They were happily married for 30 years.  She never had children, but she was very involved with William's large family.

[Photo credit:  National Trust, London]

She liked to keep her identity as Beatrix Potter a secret, but always welcomed American fans who made the journey to Hill Top, because she felt American readers had an understanding of her work more than British readers.

[Photo Credit: National Trust]

Below, a 1938 painting of Beatrix by Delmar Banner.  She is holding a show catalog for the judging of Herdwick sheep.  I bought a copy of this painting at the National Portrait Gallery when I visited London in 2007. 

Beatrix reintroduced Herdwick sheep, a threatened native breed particularly suited to the Lake District mountain areas, and she was the first woman elected President of the Herdwick Sheep Breeder's Association which showed the high regard the farming community had for her.   She was a prize-winning breeder of  Herdwick sheep, and won major prizes at local shows.  Beatrix was always happiest when she was with her farm animals.

[Photo credit:  National Portrait Gallery]

The Beatrix Potter Society was founded in 1980 to promote the study and appreciation of her life and works.

I wish I could have concluded this post with a photo of Beatrix Potter sipping a cup of tea, but there was none to be found online.   I'm certain she was a tea drinker given her British roots, and the fact that so many of her animal illustrations are tea themed.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing the life of Beatrix Potter.  Data varied, so I hope my dates are correct. This is only a fraction of her accomplishments. Beatrix Potter was an amazing woman, with incredible talent and abilities.


  1. Very interesting post, I learned a great deal about one of my favorite authors, and joyed seeing the pictures of her life.

  2. We had Miss Potter on last night so my friend could see it!

  3. Loved your post. Love Beatrix Potter too. I once painted her little animals in my grandsons nursery

  4. Loved that photos. They had something - a soul.

  5. What a great post on a fascinating woman! And I did not know about the sheep breeding!

  6. Fascinating for sure! How I love her work and would totally love to visit Hill Top one day.

  7. R.I.P Beatrix Potter


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