During the Golden Age of Illustration this was generally the time where large powerhouse artists like Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, and Charles Dana Gibson started to arise. That is not to say that illustration had started at this time, but illustration had started to become more recognizable and illustrators at the time were becoming well known and recognizable. Of course the Golden Age that I am referring to relates to the boom of illustration in America; I’m sure there are other “Golden Ages” in different countries, and with their respective times when they started to become popular.
I decided to pick Beatrix Potter for today’s blog post.
Beatrix Potter, a English writer, illustrator, natural scientist, and conservationist was best known for her children’s books, contributions to mycology, and her views as a conservationist.
Born on July 28, 1866 in London, Kensington Beatrix grew up with her younger brother Walter Bertram. Both were encouraged to draw when they were young, and Beatrix was taught by a governess in her home at a very young age; because of this Beatrix grew up isolated from other children. She owned a multitude of pets (one of her first pets was a rabbit named “Benjamin Bouncer”), and drew the animals as frequent studies in her early drawings. She shared this love of animals with her brother Walter, and they would often bring animals back home hidden in paper bags to add to their collection.
Most surprisingly, their collection included but was not limited to: a tortoise, frogs, salamanders, a bat, sometimes mice, hedgehogs, and rabbits.
Her love of animals was further strengthened as the Potter family would have frequent holidays where they would travel to the countryside. From the trips in the countryside, Beatrix would develop a love for flora, landscape, and fauna, where she would make careful observational studies of the subjects.
Contributions to Science
As Beatrix began to draw more, her works were slowly recognized by naturalists like Charles McIntosh, who encouraged Beatrix to make more scientific and accurate illustrations of fungi and animals. From this request, Beatrix started to invest more time into accurately depicting fungi and plants, contributing marvelous scientific illustrations featuring intricate studies of fungi. Her success not only lied in her drawing ability and contributions towards botanical illustrations and studies, Beatrix also developed a theory of how fungi spores reproduced and wrote a paper called “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae”. Initially rejected because of societal standards not accepting her research because she was a woman, Beatrix presented her studies again to George Massee, a fungi expert who worked in the Kew gardens. Although Beatrix Potter’s studies were never officially published at the time, researchers today recognize her contribution to mycology.
The Tales’/Story of Series
Arguably one of her greatest and well known achievements, Beatrix Potter illustrated and wrote the classical children’s books such as: “The Tales of Peter Rabbit”, “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher”, “The Story of Miss Moppet” and other works involving the same title. The stories would often depict anthropomorphic animals in mundane scenarios living their lives as humans would sometimes.
These children tales would become one of the best selling books of all time throughout the world, being translated in hundreds of languages and her stories retold in a variety of modern media today.
The Legacy of Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter is a phenomenal and powerful woman of her time. Being a prominent figure in the American Golden Age of Illustration, Beatrix Potter would influence the lives of children and almost everyone after her time. Her books are a timeless masterpiece and enjoyable by all; children and adults alike.
Not only is did Beatrix Potter create various children’s books stories, she also bought and preserved farmland at the time which later turned into Beatrix contributing to the preservation of a large part of land that constitutes the Lake District National park.
I find that in modern society, children’s books are often brushed off or termed “immature” or “childish”from many adult perspectives. However I believe that these books are a powerful medium that can influence the future, and many of the younger generations aspirations. I have the utmost respect to Beatrix Potter’s works, and rediscovering them now gives me a feel of nostalgia and warmth, something that I think only children’s books can really reproduce. The artistic skill and creativity it takes to influence children is a powerful one and something that should be praised more today.
If I had something to say to Beatrix Potter today, it would definitely be a lengthy thank you letter (lol). Reading her works back when I was a kid gave me plenty of joy, and rediscovering her works now hits close to home.