Christmas cards designed by a young Beatrix Potter for display


Three Christmas cards designed by a young Beatrix Potter will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in the New Year.

ade when Potter was 23 years old to give his friends and family the “Five Minute Wonder”, these were her first commercially successful works and marked the start of her career as an illustrator.

They will be presented as part of the Drawn To Nature exhibition at the V&A, which will open in February and will tell his life through more than 240 personal objects.

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Design for a Beatrix Potter Greeting Card, 1890, watercolor and pen and ink on paper. Linder bequest © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy of Frederick Warne and Co (1)

© Victoria and Albert Museum, L

Design for a Beatrix Potter Greeting Card, 1890, watercolor and pen and ink on paper. Linder bequest © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Courtesy of Frederick Warne and Co (1)

Potter, who was born in 1866 and died in 1943, remains best known for her children’s books featuring animals, such as The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, but was also a distinguished naturalist and conservationist.

The popularity of the cards encouraged Potter to approach greeting card publishers with his work, and in 1890 his designs were commissioned by the London-based company Hildesheimer & Faulkner.

The first two cards show his famous anthropomorphic style of animal illustration – one in the V&A’s collection features a rabbit inspired by his pet, the “charming rascal” Benjamin Bouncer delivering the Christmas mail, while one on loan from the National Trust shows guinea pigs dressed in school uniforms chasing their mothers.

Introduced for the first time in 20 years, the third map is a hand-drawn prototype for an “elaborate” map commissioned by Hildesheimer & Faulkner showing an autumn scene of a field mouse in a nest of leaves.

It was never widely printed after publishers chose an illustration of a mouse in a coconut instead.

Annemarie Bilclough, museum illustration curator, and Frederick Warne, exhibition curator, said: “We are delighted to be able to include an original drawing and two sample Christmas cards printed from Beatrix Potter designs, his first illustrations sold commercially.

“Cards like this are an important part of the story of Beatrix’s journey to becoming an author-illustrator, and the success of the cards is a testament to her practicality and business acumen. “

– Beatrix Potter: Drawn To Nature runs from February 12, 2022 to January 8, 2023.


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