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Photograph of Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) in a plaid shawl beside two waterbutts

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Dalguise House (probably, photographed)

  • Date:

    1880 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Potter, Rupert, born 1832 - died 1914 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Joan Duke

  • Museum number:

    E.743-2005

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 44, box A

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is one of the world's best-loved children's authors and illustrators. She wrote the majority of the twenty-three Original Peter Rabbit Books between 1901 and 1913. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Frederick Warne, 1902) is her most famous and best-loved tale.

An artist himself, Rupert Potter (1832-1914) was probably the single greatest influence on his daughter's enduring passion for the arts and natural history and on her development as a writer and illustrator. Rupert took up photography in the 1860s when it was still a relatively new art form and was elected to the Photographic Society of London in 1869. An enthusiastic and skilled amateur, he later contributed to photographic exhibitions.

Closely observed by Beatrix, Rupert assisted the artist Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), a close friend, by photographing backgrounds for paintings and sitters for portraits. Rupert's favourite subject, however, was Beatrix herself. Photography was an expensive and laborious process yet she appears to have endured patiently the elaborate choreography and the camera’s uncomfortably long exposure. Rupert's prolific legacy of several hundred photographs forms a broad pictorial account of Beatrix’s life from infancy to marriage.

During the family's extended summer holidays it was Beatrix's delight to accompany her father on photographic expeditions. From 1871 to 1881 the Potters rented Dalguise House near Dunkeld in Perthshire. The house became for Beatrix a much-loved place of magic and romance. Returning for a brief visit in 1884, Beatrix recalled, 'Everything was romantic in my imagination. The woods were peopled by the mysterious good folk. The Lords and Ladies of the last century walked with me along the overgrown paths, and picked the old fashioned flowers among the box and rose hedges of the garden ... I remember every stone, every tree, the scent of the heather, the music sweetest mortal ears can hear, the murmuring of the wind through the fir trees ... it was always beautiful, home sweet home.' (Journal, Thursday 8th May 1884). Here, Beatrix poses as a Gypsy or a local country girl during the family's holiday to Dalguise House in 1880.

Excited by the possibilities of the new art form, Beatrix too became an avid photographer, inheriting one of her father’s old cameras, 'a most inconveniently heavy article which he refuses to use, and which has been breaking my back since I took to that profession.' (Journal, Friday 19th April 1895). Beatrix went on to employ photography in the service of her own art and, like Millais, she photographed details, particularly in the Lake District landscapes, that she later incorporated in her imaginative book illustrations.

Physical description

Sepia photograph of a girl, Beatrix Potter, wearing a coarse striped woollen skirt with a plaid shawl around her shoulders, standing barefoot on a slab of rock beside a water butt. A long duct of running water flows into the water butt. A second water butt can be partially seen in the bushes behind Beatrix Potter. Beatrix Potter's face is slightly blurred; the rest of the photograph is in sharp focus. Foliage in the background includes nettles and ferns.

Place of Origin

Dalguise House (probably, photographed)

Date

1880 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Potter, Rupert, born 1832 - died 1914 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'[illegible] / 80'
Inscription on verso by Rupert Potter

Dimensions

Height: 211 mm, Width: 157 mm

Object history note

Photograph of Beatrix Potter at Dalguise House, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, taken by Rupert Potter in 1880 (when Beatrix was fourteen years old).

Descriptive line

Photograph of Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) in a plaid shawl beside two water butts at Dalguise House, near Dunkeld, Perthshire; albumen print by Rupert Potter (1832-1914), 1880.

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Photography

Subjects depicted

Girls; Butts; Plaids; Gypsies (Gipsies); Ferns; Shawls; Skirts; Water; Leaf (plant material)

Categories

Photographs; Scotland

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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