Studies of Perthshire fungi by the creator of the Tale of Peter Rabbit
Perth Museum and Art Gallery has a collection of 25 fungi studies by Beatrix Potter, the well known creator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Painted in watercolours in the 1880s and 1890s, these detailed studies give an insight into Potter’s skills in observing the natural world. This understanding of nature was to give a solid base to her illustrations for her Little Books for children.
Potter’s study of fungi (known as mycology) developed through her friendship with the Perthshire naturalist Charles McIntosh. Potter had spent many childhood summers in and around Dunkeld and Dalguise, Perthshire between 1871 and 1882. These holidays were some of the happiest days of her life and first awakened the interest of the young girl in the delights of wildlife and nature. She returned again in 1892, when she plucked up the courage to make contact with Charlie McIntosh.
The studies, beautifully executed in watercolour on paper, with some ink embellishments, date from 1888 to 1897. Most of them feature specimens either seen at first hand by Beatrix on her last trip to Perthshire, or are of specimens collected by Charlie and posted to Beatrix in London for her to paint. By way of thanks Beatrix appears to have sent the watercolours to Charlie. The majority entered the collection as Charlie McIntosh’s bequest in 1922. Over the years the data became separated from the works, and the true authorship of the studies was not officially recognised until the late Dr Mary Noble, a leading Scottish mycologist, identified them as the work of Beatrix Potter in 1978.
The story of the Perthshire watercolours, all illustrated in full colour, is available in the booklet A Fascinating Acquaintance, Charles McIntosh and Beatrix Potter their common bond in the Natural History of the Dunkeld area (3rd edition , 2003), which is available from Perth Museum and Art Gallery, priced £4.00 (excl. p&p).
More information about Beatrix Potter’s life and work can be found on the website: http://www.peterrabbit.com.