The Frist Art Museum presents Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, the first exhibition to tell the broader life story of the beloved English author and illustrator. Organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum — home to the world’s largest collection of Potter’s artworks — the exhibition will be on view in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from April 7 through September 17, 2023.
In the classic children’s storybook The Tale of Peter Rabbit, first self-published in London in 1901, and 22 other children’s books, Potter imagined an enchanting world of animals and gardens. She became one of the most successful author-illustrators of the 20th century and also defied expectations for women of her time by engaging in scientific studies, farming, and land conservation.
Presented in a playful and colorful family-friendly installation, Drawn to Nature features rarely seen objects, including personal letters, photographs, books, diaries, decorative arts, sketches, and watercolors that explore the inspirations behind Potter’s stories and characters. The engaging in-gallery interpretation text includes special labels designed for children. Two cozy carpeted areas in the galleries—one with oversized flowerpots and another with giant spools of thread for seats—invite guests to read Potter’s stories surrounded by her drawings and watercolors.
The presentation at the Frist is complemented by experiential learning activities in the Martin ArtQuest® Gallery, including writing illustrated letters, drawing objects found in gardens, playing in a puppet theater, and creating animations with flora and fauna. Based on scholarship about Potter’s life and work, the exhibition reveals that her books emerged from her passion for nature and were just one of her major legacies.
“From storyteller to natural scientist and conservationist, Beatrix Potter lived a truly remarkable and multifaceted life,” says Frist Art Museum senior curator Trinita Kennedy. “Through interactive features, video, and engaging prompts in every gallery, this exhibition invites guests of all ages to explore the full breadth of Potter’s work and life.”
Thursday, April 6 a Curator’s Perspective program will be held from 6:30–7:30 p.m. CDT in the Frist Auditorium, free, first come, first seated. Annemarie Bilclough, curator of Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature, discusses the development of this fascinating new exhibition that explores the life of the beloved children’s author, the places and animals which inspired her stories, and her background as a scientist and conservationist.
Annemarie Bilclough has worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for more than twenty years on a variety of projects, from exhibitions on art deco and arts and crafts to small displays on art inspired by maps and botanical illustration. She contributed work on medieval prints for the V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries and on Rembrandt for the Europe 1600–1800 galleries and was co-curator of the 2017 exhibition Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. Most recently she co-curated the display Making an Impression: The Art of Relief Printmaking (2019–20) and the Creating Alice section of the 2021 exhibition Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser. She curated Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature in partnership with the National Trust.