To mark the 120th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the V&A has partnered with the National Trust to hold this family-friendly exhibition celebrating the life and work of one of the best-loved children’s authors of the 20th century.


Visitors will wander into an immersive show that brings together Potter’s original watercolours, drawings and manuscripts, as well as some of her personal artefacts including letters, photographs, furniture and decorative art.

Beatrix Potter drawings
Picture letter by Beatrix Potter sent to Noel Moore from Heath Park, Birnam, dated 21st August 1892. Ink over pencil on paper.

As well as a writer and artist, Potter was also a natural scientist, farmer and conservationist in the Lake District, bringing to light the places, people and animals that inspired some of her characters. As a young girl, Potter would study and record a wide variety of animals, birds and insects in her homemade sketchbook.

The story of Peter Rabbit was inspired by a pet rabbit she had as a child, named Peter Piper. Potter had been painting for her own amusement for many years, but in 1890 she had her first commercial success with rabbit pictures she sold as Christmas card designs to Hildesheimer & Faulkner.

Peter Rabbit
Peter with handkerchief in watercolour and pencil, from The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, 1904

Having become close friends with her former governess, Annie Moore, Potter regularly wrote picture letters to Annie’s young children; several years later, she turned one of these tales into a picture book. It was rejected by several publishers, so Potter privately printed 250 copies of it herself.

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit was a great success and, in 1902, Frederick Warne & Co agreed to publish 8,000 copies. They sold out instantly, and Beatrix Potter’s career as a storyteller was launched.


Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature exhibition will be open from Saturday 12th February at the V&A museum.