Saturday, 14 September 2013

Rare Beatrix Potter botanical paintings come to Kew

Daphne laureola L., watercolour study by Beatrix Potter, signed and dated 1885



For a long time the Archives at Kew used to only hold one letter from Beatrix Potter and a couple of examples of books about her. This surprises a lot of people because it's widely known that she visited Kew frequently and worked closely with the mycology department. Visitors used to always think that Kew held many examples of her botanical illustrations, when in fact they didn't. But this year, for the first time, Kew now has two of Potter's paintings in their collection.

The paintings' journey to Kew began in February, when on a cold evening, Chris Mills, the Head of Library, Art and Archives at Kew, was browsing through a catalogue for the sale of the Mark Ottignon Beatrix Potter collection when he spotted Lot 174 - two botanical paintings by Beatrix Potter.

The watercolours, which are painted on two sides of a single sheet of paper, depict Black Bryony, Tamus communis L, dated 1883, and, on the reverse Daphne laureola L., initialled and dated 1885. Without hesitation Chris bid for the items. Their acquisition was thankfully funded by a generous legacy bequeathed specifically for use of the library collections.

Tamus communis (Black bryony), watercolour study by Beatrix Potter, dated 1883
With the paintings now safely in Kew's Collection, the conservation department are now removing the  stains caused by yellowed sellotape and giving them a good clean. Once the paintings have been fully restored the item will be mounted so that both sides can be admired by visitors to the herbarium. What a happy ending!

You can read more about Beatrix Potter at Kew here.

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