Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beatrix Potter Rarities

Hare sitting on a patterned carpet

Hare sitting on a patterned carpet
(previously unknown ink, pencil, watercolour/gouache sketch from the early 1890s)

Two of the most important pets among Beatrix and Bertram Potter's childhood menagerie were Benjamin Bouncer and, later, Peter Piper. They would become immortalised as Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter used Benjamin Bouncer as a model in the early 1890s for drawing fashionable greeting cards - her first commercial enterprise.

The Rabbits' Christmas Party - The Arrival
The Rabbits' Christmas Party - The Arrival

The first of a series of six watercolour sketches from 1892, among Potter's finest work. This particular illustration - possibly influenced by Renoir's 'Les Parapluies' - was a gift to Potter's brother Bertram, but was previously unknown. Another version is owned by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) **Nb. See far below for UPDATE**

The Rabbits' Christmas Party - Dancing to a Piper

The Rabbits' Christmas Party - Dancing to a Piper (detail)
The Rabbits' Christmas Party - Dancing to a Piper

The finished watercolour shows eight rabbits (compared to seven as present here) dancing to a piper. Rhubarb stalks are present in a large pot in the upper left corner. The rhubarb and pot are shown here in faint pencil outline. The floor was changed from evenly laid pinkish terracotta tiles to rather haphazard grey flagstone tiles. this version is entirely unknown.

The scene was later redrawn with a rabbit playing a 'cello surrounded by five dancing rabbits (and two rabbits nuzzling each other by the back wall).

In 1987 Frederick Warne united the four V&A illustrations with the two paintings originally given to Henry P. Coolidge. A fold-out panorama was published as The Rabbits' Christmas Party

The Rabbits' Christmas Party - The Departure
The Rabbits' Christmas Party - The Departure

Hobbs, in the Dulwich Picture Gallery exhibition catalogue, noted "The attitudes are both rabbit-like and human. Only an artist with an intimate knowledge of anatomy could convey so well both musculature and the texture of fur. Remarkable, as in all Potter's animal drawing, is her observation of ears."

Three Little Mice sat down to spin
Three Little Mice sat down to spin 
(ink and watercolour)

A booklet (never completed) had been planned for the nursery rhyme, 'Three Little Mice Sat Down to Spin', in which six lines were to be illustrated. The mice in this unfinished sketch are using cottagers' looms. This is a variation on the first work in the series (the watercolour set is at the V&A).

Dinner in Mouseland

Dinner in Mouseland
(pencil and grisaille drawing heightened with gouache)

The completed version of this work - featuring one of Potter's favourite daisy paintings - is owned by the National Trust was the basis for a scene in The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse.

Three Rabbits Eating Plenty of Buns
Three Rabbits Eating Plenty of Buns

An entirely uknown drawing showing an inventive use of lettering on the jars, bag and label on the set of keys. The message reads "A Merry Christmas and Plenty of Buns H.B.P."

Two Bunnies

Two Bunnies (detail)
Two Bunnies

Unfinished pencil drawing similar to a version at the V&A that shows two rabbits nibbling a turnip. (the bottom of the image has been trimmed slightly)

Squintina Tabby - Licensed dealer in Tea

Squintina Tabby - Licensed dealer in Tea 
(pen and grisaille drawing heightened with gouache)

One of the three variations on this drawing known to exist. Potter's Aunt and Uncle owned a cat called Squintina (Squinty). Dated to about 1895 as a publishing firm adapted the picture that year for a cover of their 'Comical Customers'.

'In somebody's cupboard there's everything nice...'

beatrix potter illustration

beatrix potter illustration
'In somebody's cupboard there's everything nice...'

In 1891 Beatrix Potter drew three illustrations of Appley Dapply intended for publication as greetings cards or as a short booklet. The trio of drawings showed the little brown mouse called Appley Dapply foraging in a larder of food but remained unpublished. In 1917, this specific illustration was noted to be missing as Potter began work on 'Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes'. It resurfaced twenty years later and was given as a present to a child known to Potter. {sold for £36,000 - that's Great Britain Pounds, not Euro}

Rough Sketch - The Cats Meat Man
Rough Sketch - The Cats Meat Man

Although this drawing was given away in 1895, Potter remembered the scene thirty years later when the central part of the scene was transformed into the fisher-cart, a line drawing in 'The Fairy Caravan'.

Little Red Riding Hood encounters the Wolf (Beatrix Potter sketch)
Little Red Riding Hood encounters the Wolf

The completed version of this rough wash drawing contains fungi and ferns to contribute to the feeling of claustrophobia.

Wallaby (pencil and wax crayon)

Bear clasping a deer (pencil and wax crayon)

Antelope (pencil)
The wallaby, bear clutching a deer and antelope pencil drawings are possibly the result of a visit to the zoo or were copied from illustrations Potter saw in a Victorian natural history book.

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. Frederick Warne and Co., 1909 (dedication)
The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

From the first edition (1909) presentation book inscribed by Potter with: "for Lizzie Airey from Miss Potter Third book about the rabbits - April 25. 12".

The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse. Frederick Warne and Co., 1910 (dedication)
The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse

From the first edition (1910) presentation book inscribed by Potter with: "For the little girl who is 7 from Miss Potter - Wishing all a Merry Christmas"

The "little girl" was also Lizzie Airey (d. 1985), the daughter of the landlord of the Sun Inn in Hawkshead. The inn's kitchen was the inspiration for the 1912 'Mr Tod's Kitchen'.

Mouse Reading Newspaper
Spectacled Mouse Reading Newspaper
Previously unknown drawing dating from the first year of Potter's association with Hildesheimer & Faulkner greeting card manufacturers (1892). Potter had a fondness for drawing mice reading newspapers, the most famous example being the mouse reading 'The Tailor and the Cutter' in 'The Tailor of Gloucester' [pic].

A preparatory sketch for the front cover of The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck
A preparatory sketch for the front cover of The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck

'The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck' was published in 1908. [sketch sold for £14,000]

Benjamin Bunny
Benjamin Bunny
(grey ink and watercolour vignette)

Many of Potter's creations like Peter Rabbit began as characters illustrated in letters or as greeting cards. In 1893 Potter wrote in a letter: "I don't know what to write to you, I will tell you a story about little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.

'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' was first published privately in 1900 and then commercially, to great success, in 1902. 'The Tale of Benjamin Bunny', which included the character of Peter Rabbit as Benjamin's cousin, followed in 1904. [This sketch from 1893 sold for £30,000 in 2005]

The strumpers
The Strumpers
(black ink; no further details)

Study of field mice
Study of field mice 
(pencil, black ink and wash; no further details)

Bedstraw and hazlenuts (illustrated by Beatrix Potter)
Bedstraw and hazlenuts
(pen, brown and watercolour; no further details)

Studies for Miss Tiggy-winkle
Studies for Miss Tiggy-winkle
This pencil drawing is supposed to have come from the nursery at Arundel Castle and was subsequently won in a charity raffle in 1958.

A preliminary sketch for the title page of 'The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle', 1905
Mrs Tiggy-Winkle at her washtub inscribed on the back: "original drawing by Beatrix Potter of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle presented to Frederick Ashton by Harold Linder on the occasion of the making of the film 'Tales of Beatrix Potter' Frederick Ashton 1971."

A memento of the collaboration between Leslie Linder, the 'celebrated' Potter scholar and collector, and Frederick Ashton, who had choreographed the ballet and created the part of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
[this image (trimmed slightly) was a later addition to the post]

A Study of a House Mouse 
(pencil and watercolour heightened with white)

"Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) drew from an early age, both from nature and from her imagination, often combining the two. From the early 1880's, she made a number of careful studies of bats, lizards and fish, then of insects and spiders, fossils and fungi. Some were wild specimens, but many were pets. Her best-known drawings are of rabbits and mice. 'Benjamin Bouncer' was the inspiration for her first greetings card designs (1890) and the source of her first independent income; a later rabbit, 'Peter Piper', appears in scenes from Alice and Uncle Remus, and then in the Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), the first of her famous 'Little Books'.

Beatrix Potter grew 'a little tired of rabbits', and came to prefer mice, doormice and voles, as single 'specimens', as sheets of studies in various positions, or, like the rabbits, as protagonists in fairy tale or nursey rhyme illustrations and in her animal fantasies, where they remain faithfully naturalistic.

This drawing may well have been done during a visit to Camfield Place, near Hatfield in Hertfordshire, the house of her paternal grandparents; it is inscribed (on the verso): Oct 29 87. The paper is slightly thicker and more tinted than that used for most of her other natural history studies, except for the larger, more showy finished works done of mechanical wood pulp board. The treatment of eyes, ears and claws are all characteristic; typically, she has used white highlights to render the texture of fur."
[from Christie's catalogue] {sold in 2003 for £7,000}

vignette with no notes in a larger lot

The Tale of Two Bad Mice (Christies)
The Tale of Two Bad Mice (1904)
This lavender cloth and gilt inlay book cover was based on a cover design sketched by Potter.
{UPDATE: 17 July 2008}:

"LONDON (Reuters) - An original watercolour illustration by Beatrix Potter for the final scene from the Rabbit Christmas Party set a new auction record on Thursday at 289,250 pounds.

The sum was nearly five times the top end of the pre-sale estimate of 40-60,000 pounds, making the painting of rabbits leaving the party by candlelight the most expensive book illustration ever sold at auction, Sotheby's said.

Sotheby's said the buyer was a private British collector.

It was one of 20 original illustrations, books, unpublished Christmas cards and letters by children's author and illustrator Potter from the collection of her brother Bertram Potter on offer at the London sale.

The whole collection, the most extensive group of Beatrix Potter artwork to have appeared on the market in decades, realised a total of 748,200 pounds."

UPDATE Nov. 2014 - the images below were spliced together from a current Sotheby's sale that included a couple of original Beatrix Potter works. Some background staining was removed.

Appley Dapply - Beatrix Potter 1890
Appley Dapply, 1890
"101 by 155mm, ink and watercolour drawing with folding door on hinge, signed with initials and dated lower left "H.B.P. 1890". [..] 
Possibly used by Beatrix Potter as a Christmas card design, and sent to Elinor and Elizabeth Lupton. The Lupton sisters' great aunt was Potter's grandmother and the artist is known to have sent Christmas designs to her relations in 1890. [..] 
The subject of a mouse, with apron and basket, was re-worked by Potter the following year as Appley Dapply, a rhyme in three scenes. A later version was published within Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes in 1917. Crucially the cupboard contains a plate of jam tarts in all versions." 

A Rabbit's Tea Party - Beatrix Potter
A Rabbit's Tea Party, 1892-1893
"76 by 60mm, fine ink and watercolour drawing, signed with initials "H.B.P." lower right, mounted, framed and glazed [..] 
A fine early watercolour, probably dating from 1892-93. There is a level of detail and artistic sophistication in Potter's earliest watercolours that make the 1890s watercolours of rabbits especially desirable. The present piece is a particularly fine example."


Unknown said...

Peacay...Wonderful article. I talked about it on my blog today and added you to my blog roll. You are definitely one of my favorites! Please view my post about you . http://contentinacottage.blogspot.com/

Content in a Cottage said...

Peacay...this is a repeat of my previous post granting permission to view my profile. Loved your article on Miss Potter and wrote about it on my blog today. http://contentinacottage.blogspot.com/

Karla said...

Well, you knew I'd love this one, and the images are great! Most of them were new to me, too.

Kate W. said...

My goodness! This blog is beautifully organized and detailed. I Love Beatrix Potter illustrations (doesn't everyone?) and these made my day. My blog is dedicated to teaching college students how to write (with a fairy tale focus). I will link to your site to inspire and delight them. My site: Diamondsandtoads.blogspot.com
Kate W

Patrícia C. said...

Beautiful, beautiful... thank you for these wonderful images. I love your blog and I added it in my blog roll. Um abraço direto do Brasil!

newyorkette said...

Thanks for posting all these beautiful drawings! It's a rare day I get to see them so blown up (in the flickr page) so I can look at the details.

Jeanie Nelson said...

How delightful to see these rare insights! We see her published pieces so much, these are fascinatingly new. Thank you! I would like to highlight your findings on my own blog, jeanieandjewell.blogspot.com

Bibi said...

One more gorgeous post Paul :)

I feature a list of Beatrix books available at Internet Archive a long ago: http://www.bibi.org/box/archives/2007/01/beatrix_potter.html Probably from some of those on-line libraries.

Take care ;)

Unknown said...

What a work!
thanks you for give me something new to learn today!!

peacay said...


Thanks for that Bibi!

Design Nature said...

O, nostalgia!

Bumpkin Hill said...

I am delighted to have found your blog, I could just look for hours and hours and hours at these beautiful illustrations, just breathtaking :)

Robin Pedrero said...

I look at thses images in childlike glee. This is a great article. This summer I so enjoyed the movie where Potter is played by Rene Zellweger.

lotusgreen said...

charming, pk

"Bedstraw and hazlenuts" is a surprise!

porter hovey said...

WOW!! These are just amazing. Just such an amazing find. Thank you!!

peacay said...

I have some automatic searches set up that deliver results via email or rss and ironically (and understandably I guess) one of the many repeated [news articles mostly] entries in the last few days has been in relation to the Sotheby's auction and the Xmas party illustration that is now the priciest book illustration ever sold.

Not one of the bastardos notes a certain extensive and prescient blogspot post *cough* ahead of the auction! Maybe I ought to have checked to see if any of them lifted the spliced version of the illustration that I made.

{I am not actually complaining: it just all seems kind of follow-the-leader news repetition without any depth or further research or the like}

Karla said...

You may not be complaining, but it's annoying!

peacay said...

Nah, I was being completely facetious. I happened upon the catalogue and series of Potter illustrations very much by accident (serendipity is my favourite blogging 'lubricant', as it were.)

Karla said...

There's still the matter of the usual follow-the-leader style of journalism. But that's the norm, alas.

peacay said...

Yeah, it was that thought that made me mention it. But the web makes this sort of MSM behaviour much more obvious and it's not exactly a new journalistic phenomenon.

Shady said...

Oh this is amazing, thanks for sharing!
I heart the newspaper-reading mouse.

teaorwine said...

Love, love Beatrix Potter and her diminutive, illustrated story books made just the right size for the hands of little ones.

Holly Exley Illustration said...

Thanks for the really interesting blog. My illustration tutor asked me to look at Potter's studies of animals, and its only when you look at these that you understand how talented she was, and not just at drawing cute little animals in clothes.

Anonymous said...

These pictures are just brilliant, some of them I havent seen before and I am a Beatrix Potter fan. So must be quite rare.

Miguel Gómez Losada said...

Thanks for this blog, hace a nice day, from South Spain

Anonymous said...

A Dream of Toasted Cheese https://archive.org/stream/lifeexperienceso00roscrich#page/n295/mode/1up

Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe was BP's uncle.

peacay said...

That's a great illustration, thanks very much Amanda.

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