Recently, the children of our class became enamored with a large, golden volume entitled Tales of Mischief and Mayhem. It was in this way that we came upon our next British artist, Beatrix Potter. Although her elegant watercolors can not be found at the Yale Center for British Art, her work has been wonderfully documented throughout her children’s books.
Both naturalist and artist, Ms. Potter was also a trailblazer, bucking the trends of Victorian England. Her parents moved her out of London, up to the lakes country, and let her explore the wilderness. Schooled by a governess, Beatrix was allowed to catch rabbits, frogs, and the like, and keep them in cages as pets. She spent a great deal of her time sketching, painting, and learning about the animals that would later become the inspiration for her books’ characters.
As a watercolorist, Ms. Potter would first sketch her animals in pencil, and then add the watercolors. Later, she would “pop out” her paintings by adding black outlines. Our students learned this process, and even created their own watercolors with my co-teacher, Sylvia, before sketching, painting and titling them.
Ms. Potter’s work has not only filled our bookshelves and walls….We found a darling poem by Ms. Potter that the children are working on memorizing as well as illustrating called “We have a Little Garden”. Two of the children met by happenstance at the public library, and made it their mission to find more books and bring them in to class. One of the children recounted this in her “Weekend News”:
Any classroom can become immersed in the study of an artist, allowing him/her to influence all areas of the curriculum.