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Beatrix Potter (1866–1943)
Terrapin, probably drawn at London Zoo, ca. 1905
Watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite
V&A: LC 19/\A/4, Given by the Linder Collection
Image courtesy of Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.


The Potters’ Kensington home, southwest of Hyde Park in London, was situated near two of the city’s great centers of culture and knowledge: the Natural History Museum and what was then called the South Kensington Museum. (It was renamed the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1899 after Queen Victoria and her late husband, Prince Albert.) These places gave Beatrix a creative outlet as a young person and nourished her love of art and nature. At the South Kensington Museum she would sometimes copy design elements in the collection, such as the pattern shown nearby copied from a frieze. The museum’s famous costume collection would later inspire her picture book The Tailor of Gloucester. She also frequented the nearby London Zoo, located in Regent’s Park, where she probably drew this watercolor of a terrapin. Later in life she would return to the zoo near her home to sketch owls from nature, aiming to perfect drawings for another picture book, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.