ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Artists Who Started Late in Life: Beatrix Potter

Updated on September 6, 2015
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40 years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Source

Artists understand artists.

I am an artist. What is more I appreciate the stories and struggles that artists have to endure to make the mark in history that some of them have made. Many times it just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I know that it seems like artists who are not very talented or who show no more talent than some others who did not achieve fame did, however it is a lot of chance, happenstance and who you know more than talent most of the time.

The sad fact is that artists feel deeply, all the highs and all the lows of life. Sometimes I envy people like my mother, who have a very “even keel.” People like that seldom get mad or upset (although when they do, look out). However they also don’t get overly jovial or jocular. Every day is a straight line from sunrise to sunset.

Gratefully, I don’t live like that. I am one of the artists. When I am happy, I am a very ecstatic, giggling fool. And when I’m sad, I am in the dismal dumps. No halfway for me. I feel it all and it often shows up in my work.

This is the story of one who didn’t intend to be an artist at all. She wanted to make her mark in science but as a woman, was denied access to the scientific community. So she found another outlet: Beatrix Potter 1866-1943

Source
Benjamin Bunny.
Benjamin Bunny. | Source

Artists/Scientist

The beloved creator of Peter Rabbit and 23 other children’s books did not start out studying art. She had a scientific mind and wished to publish her scientific and biology studies but being a woman, she was shut out. She wrote out her little story about 4 rabbits along with watercolor illustrations when she was about 36 but could not find a publisher for it, so she published it at her own expense for family and friends. Later she was approached by one of the publishers that had turned her down to indeed publish the book, and any others she could come up with. Her books have held the imagination of children for over a century.

Nutkin.
Nutkin. | Source

Homeschooled.

Beatrix and her brother, Walter, grew up in a wealthy family in London, England, and were educated by a private governess. This meant that they had few friends outside the extended family and the governess. They loved nature and the natural world was often a subject of her painting from an early age. She was an eager student and learned languages, literature, science and history at home. Early forms of homeschooling, I call it. She developed her own style, preferring watercolors for their portability and often illustrated insects, fossils, archeological artifacts, leaves and fungi. As a matter of fact her walks in the woods and often collection of specimens lead to her illustrating and researching fungus spores, particularly mushrooms.

Did you read Peter Rabbit when you were a child?

See results

The upstairs nursery

As the years progressed, she found that many things could be brought up to the floor of the house deemed “the nursery” as her parents rarely visited there. The floor harbored herself, her brother, her governess’s room and the common room they used for school. Sometimes she and her brother would find dead birds and animals, take them home and bribe the cook to boil the flesh off them so that they could have the skeleton to study in the nursery. She could even bring up mice to the nursery and no one would know.

Source
Source

Scientific Discoveries

Later her parents expected her to attend dances and cotillions, to meet a nice young man and start her own family, but she was uninterested. The discussed forcing her but decided that they had enough money to care for her as an old maid if that is what she decided to be. This left her alone to continue her studies. Eventually she was alone in the nursery as her brother grew up and joined the military and her governess was no longer needed. She began compiling her mushroom illustrations in earnest and discovered that she had some samples that had not yet be cataloged or discovered in any of the scientific journals. She tried to have her illustrations and findings published but was scorned for being a woman and “obviously” not scientific enough to be accurate.

Studies on lichen

She then began doing studies on lichen: the mossy substance that grows on rocks and wood. She hypothesized that the lichen was not growing on the rocks but was symbiotic and was grown on something microscopic that was growing on the rocks and trees. She wrote a length thesis on the subject along with watercolor illustrations and scientific measurements and notes she had gathered. Again approaching the scientific community to have her thesis published, she was scorned and laughed out of the place because as a woman, she couldn’t possibly be doing more than dreaming. Some 40 years later another scientist (a man, of course) was credited with postulating that lichen is symbiotic and grows on something microscopic that was growing on the rocks and trees.

Peter Rabbit.
Peter Rabbit. | Source
Peter Rabbit and family.
Peter Rabbit and family. | Source

A letter to the children.

This had to be a blow to Beatrix as a woman and as a scientist. By now in her 30s she threw herself into other things, like learning languages. She became fluent in 5 languages: French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian. She continued to keep in touch with her beloved governess, who had by now 4 children of her own. As the story goes, one day she received a note saying that her former governess’s son, Peter was deathly ill with Scarlet Fever. Because her mother would not let her borrow the carriage to visit the family, she sat down to write a letter. However, what do you write to a sick child? Dear Peter, I hope you don’t die? No, she thought she would write him a story. The children always loved when she told them stories about the different animals that they had encountered. So she wrote a short story about a family of rabbits who were sent out to pick berries for a pie. They were warned not to go into Farmer McGregor’s garden patch because they would be caught but Peter couldn’t resist. He snuck into the garden and ate till he was bursting, when Farmer McGregor spied him, he chased him all over the garden and Peter lost his coat trying to escape. When he got home he was very sick and while his siblings got to eat berry pie, he had to stay in bed and have medicine. She decorated the margins of the letter with watercolor illustrations.

Goose and Fox.
Goose and Fox. | Source

She published it herself at first.

When she finally got to see the children and Peter did recover, they ran to meet her and begged her to read the letter to them again and again. She was overjoyed that she had created something that caused such excitement with the children. So she took the story, refined it, redid the watercolor illustrations and presented it to several children’s book publishers there in London. They all refused her. But she knew it was a good story and the children loved it, so she pulled her own money out of the bank and went to a printer. She had about 200 books printed to her specified dimensions (about 5 inches by 5 inches, the size of children’s hands). And she gave a few copies away, but the rest she sold, sending them to book store owners she knew and even a few sent to America. After they all sold she thought to herself that she should probably print a few hundred more, when she was approached by one of the children’s book publishers that had originally turned her down. With cap in hand, Mr. Warne begged her to let them publish her book and in full color.

Source

Norman Warne

During the next few months working with the younger Warne brother at Frederick Warne & Co, they fell in love and became unofficially engaged, secretly planning a wedding because her parents disapproved. However tragedy struck and Norman Warne died suddenly of leukemia.

Two Bad Mice.
Two Bad Mice. | Source
Source

Hill Top Farm

With the proceeds of her book sales, Beatrix bought her own home and farm, Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, which was a tiny village in the English Lake District near Windermere. She continued to write and illustrate stories published by the Warne Co and even translated them into other languages herself to be purchased all over the world. In her late 40’s it appeared she would never marry and certainly never have her own children, so she began to make preparations for her property to go to the National Trust with the proviso that the land and animals would remain as they were. It was a move to keep development from coming in and destroying the legacy of the countryside she loved so much. To do this, she hired a lawyer, and later the fell in love and married.

Source

A character herself.

As she got older people said she began to look very much like the characters in her books, or perhaps it was the other way around. The characters in her books were modeled after herself. Her stories have been retold in song, film, ballet, animation and even a TV series.

The Tailor of Gloucester.
The Tailor of Gloucester. | Source

The Reluctant Artst

I would say she didn’t jump into art right away but once she embraced it, she made a mark on the world that will be remember and loved for generations. I read these stories to my children and expect them to read them to their children and grandchildren.

Source

Artistic comments welcomed.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      quildon,

      Well, I find that many artist are also good at writing, decorating, designing, photography, music, theater and even dance. But you are right, you don't hear about too many that have a real love of science like Potter did. She was certainly remarkable. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 

      3 years ago from Florida

      An inspiring story about an extraordinary artist. I don't think there are many artists with a scientific background. And those illustrations are just fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      lawrence01,

      It's true women have had a hard time getting any credit for having a mind for anything but cooking and even there it's the male chefs who make the big bucks. We know Potter for her rabbit books but she was quite the intellectual and people just don't realize that. Glad to enlighten you. thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Denise

      I never knew Beatrix Potter had a science background!

      This hub made me think of another scientist who was rejected for being 'a woman' and she's the only person ever to win TWO NOBEL PRIZES! Marie Curie went through the same!

      Loved this hub

      Lawrence

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      drbj,

      Thank you. I really appreciate that. She was remarkable, wasn't she? Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      3 years ago from south Florida

      This is a lovely story about a remarkable artist. Beatrix certainly was a woman born before her time. Thanks for this treat, m'dear.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      phoenix2327,

      What a blessing for you. I am envious. I haven't been able to visit the United Kingdom yet but would love to some day. And they do speak prettily, don't they? Many of my ancestors came from England, Scotland and Ireland. How could I not visit if I possibly can? Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Thank you, BlossomSB, my friend. I love that she devoted her life to the lovely things of nature and childhood. Amazing lady. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I fell in love with Peter Rabbit when I was young. He was such a charming little scamp. I have since read all her other stories and made the acquaintance of Jemima Puddleduck and Squirrel Nutkin among others. I even have a stuffed Peter Rabbit complete with jacket and carrot.

      This was one of the main reasons I made England my home. Any place that can produce such characters and speak so prettily must be wonderful. So far, it is. Definitely one of my favourite hubs.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I had read her stories and later her life story as we took our children to see 'Far Sawry.' Her nature drawings are beautiful and the imaginative ones that go with the stories just delightful. Thank you for the reminder, you have presented her beautifully.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      pstraubie48,

      I'm so very glad you liked the information I found. I used to tell these stories when I taught art lessons years ago. I would make a guessing game out of it. I told the story without telling the name of the person I was talking about and sometimes no one could guess who I was speaking of, sometimes they guessed it. But everyone seemed to love the stories of artists lives. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      favored,

      Thank you so much. I would love to go there myself. It makes sense there would be a tour/museum of her home since she willed it back to the state/county to preserve the countryside. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      So thankful that she DID share her talents with her...I have always been a huge fan of hers. And thank you for filling in so much I did not know of her.

      Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      3 years ago from USA

      I have adored Miss Potter's work ever since I discovered it. I wish we knew about the tour of her home when we were there. Love your view artist to artist.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Oh, Larry, I have a million of them. You just don't now how much I love artists and finding out how they suffered and struggled. So don't get me started, lol. thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      My art history is not as complete as I would like, so I'm really enjoying this series.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      travmaj,

      Oh how I would love to see Hill Top for myself. What a wonderful memory to have been there. Thanks so much for sharing that.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 

      3 years ago from australia

      This certainly brought back some memories for me. I know the Lakes District well and have visited often - last time we visited Hill Top, packed with tourists of course. There's the world of Beatrix Potter and cafes and assorted venues dedicated to her and Peter and all the characters. She was a remarkable woman and I'm impressed by your article, really brings her to life. And oh, those images - stunning. A most interesting life.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      BarbRad,

      Good question. I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if it is adversity like she went through that brings out the stubbornness to be the best possible artist or if it is a drive we already have. Maybe it is the combination of both. How many times I have seen kids being encouraged in their artistic endeavors, given supplies and classes and they loose interest. Then there are people like me where my parents were against my taking classes and blocked the possibilities at every turn. My dad thought I should pursue something that will help me make a living and art is that. So I worked harder than I would have if it had been given to me on a silver platter. I'm still struggling and working at it even though I know dad was right and I'll never make a "living" at art. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      3 years ago from Templeton, CA

      You really brought Potter alive for me. I wonder if she would have left as large a mark on the world as a scientist as she left with her stories and illustrations.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      watergeek,

      I'm glad I reminded you then. Yes, and I loved the Grimm fairy tales too. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      greenmind,

      Wow, thank you very much. I just love artists and the struggles they all had getting to a place where we know them. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      WillStarr,

      I did too. That was a great movie. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 

      3 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I'd forgotten about these books until I read your hub. I used to love them, along with the fairy tales Grimm.

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind Guides 

      3 years ago from USA

      Sweet and smart hub. Really well-written by a great hubber!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We recently watch the movie depicting her life, starring Renee Zellweger. Great article!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)