"Peter Rabbit drawing for story of Kitty-in-Boots will be on display to celebrate 150th anniversary of birth of children’s author Beatrix Potter"- By Maev Kennedy
The watercolour is unfamiliar, but the central figure is known to millions: a rabbit in a blue coat ferociously setting about a pair of villainous ferrets with his umbrella.
The newly discovered picture by Beatrix Potter, for a story of Kitty-in-Boots – the black cat skulking behind the tree – that she never completed, will go on display at the Victoria and Albert museum from 2 May, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of Britain’s best-loved children’s authors.
The uncompleted watercolour, which is owned by a private collector and will be seen for the first time on loan to the exhibition, was identified by curator Emma Laws as a study for a project known only from draft manuscripts of the text, one finished drawing and two rough sketches.
Laws recognised the scene not just from the figure of Peter Rabbit, Potter’s most famous character, but because she was already working on the text of the story, part of a collection of Potter drawings and manuscripts bequeathed to the museum in 1973 by the scholar and enthusiast Leslie Linder.
The V&A has the largest collection of Potter material in the world, and an exhibition this summer, Beatrix Potter’s London, will bring together images, letters, sketches and her earliest published works. Although Potter is most associated with the Lake District, where she became a renowned farmer when her little books made her an independently wealthy woman, she was brought up a stone’s throw from the South Kensington museums.
She spent hours studying and drawing in the V&A and the Natural History museum collections – including minutely detailed drawings of garments in the costume gallery, which bore fruit in stories like The Tailor of Gloucester.