Newly identified illustration on display as V&A celebrates Beatrix Potter anniversary
To coincide with the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter in 2016, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) celebrated the children’s author and illustrator with a number of special displays about her life and work. A recently identified and previously unpublished illustration for Potter’s The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots was shown for the first time at the Museum. The year’s displays included selections of manuscripts, illustrations and letters in The Tale of Beatrix Potter and Ernest Aris, and Beatrix Potter’s London, which explored how Potter was influenced by the cultural life of her birthplace and revealed her close connection with the V&A and South Kensington.
The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots is an unpublished manuscript for which Potter began ‘several drawings’. Until recently, however, only one finished drawing and two rough sketches for the story had been identified. But the then Frederick Warne Curator of Children’s Literature at the V&A, Emma Laws, recognised a new drawing from the story after it was brought to her attention from a privately-owned collection.
Previous knowledge of the Kitty-in-Boots story is largely down to the Potter scholar and enthusiast Leslie Linder (1904-1973), whose collection of Potter drawings and manuscripts was bequeathed to the V&A in 1973 amongst them three versions of Kitty-in-Boots. Laws determined that the unfinished drawing illustrates a scene halfway through the story, in which Kitty appears in a woodland background alongside two ferrets and a little rabbit in a blue coat – recognisably the figure of Peter Rabbit. The newly-identified illustration is a significant contribution to picturing the story as Potter would have intended it, and an insight into her working process. The drawing was shown alongside a page from one of her original Kitty-in-Boots manuscripts, a dummy book of the text of the story and two other drawings.
Largest collection of Beatrix Potter’s drawings, literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and related materials
The V&A holds the world’s largest collection of Beatrix Potter’s drawings, literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and related materials, and hosts a regularly changing display on particular aspects of her work. The V&A’s connection with Beatrix Potter began during the author’s lifetime. Although Potter is often associated with the sweeping landscapes of Scotland and the Lake District depicted in her illustrations, she actually spent most of her life at her family home at 2 Bolton Gardens in South Kensington and frequently visited the museums nearby.