Under The Microscope . . .
In her early years, Beatrix was drawn to mushrooms (fungi) from fairy stories she was told in the nursery from nannies and governesses. She imagined creatures dancing round toad stools and fairy rings at the bottom of gardens or in woodland. As she grew older and was given opportunities to visit museums, gardens, countryside and coasts, she realised there was a lot more to these unusual forms. There were so many different shapes, colours and textures.
In 1882, Beatrix and her family stayed in the Lake District for the first time – at Wray Castle. They would come back most years thereafter and this is when Beatrix’s love for the landscape and environment began to flourish.
Soon, she was not just painting fungi for their colour or shape, but to also understand their scientific form, growth and reproduction. From the late 1880s throughout the 1890s, Beatrix painted hundreds of fungi artworks. Many show a variety of ways she must have been studying them, including dissecting, recording insitu and using a microscope. The majority of these artworks are in The Armitt’s collection, which were bequeathed in 1943 on her death.
But how did she create such accurate, scientific representations on paper? It is likely that she had great help from the amateur naturalist, Charles Macintosh, as well as support from family – Sir Henry Roscoe – as well as some access to resources within the mycological community. She would also have used a microscope. Whilst we do not know exactly what type, it must have been one that could produce at least x 600 magnification because some of her drawings record such notes.
With this in mind, our display for 2024 turns to putting Beatrix and her work further “under the microscope”.
See our Beatrix Potter collection page for more information.
NEW ARTIST FOR 2024
Nic Gear is an artist who loves to walk in the natural world, particularly in the Lake District. From these walks he collects objects, makes memories and takes photographs that become artworks which have both literal & abstract qualities. These combinations talk of his experiences of landscape.
In response to the fungi paintings by Beatrix Potter Nic has been collecting fungi photos and woven these together with written text. The words & phrases used reflect Beatrix Potter’s concern for preserving landscape, and update these ideas with current conversations around climate change.
It is hoped the artworks, Nic has created, will in some way act like fungi spores, visually planting ideas that inspire us to go further when protecting the natural world; to take a leaf out of Miss Potter’s book.
Follow Nic Gear to find out more about his artwork practice on Instagram here