Beatrix Potter, Study of the head of a bat
Beatrix Potter, born London, England, 1866, died near Sawrey, England, 1943. Study of the head of a bat, full face, 1888, watercolour with traces of charcoal underdrawing on paper. Gift of the Trier-Fodor Foundation, 1991
Helen Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 in London, England, and started to draw as a child, carefully observing plants and insects. The Potters kept a variety of pets—rabbits, mice, frogs, snakes, lizards and bats—and Beatrix and her brother Bertram often sketched them.
When Bertram went to boarding school, he left a pair of long-eared bats in his sister’s care. One of these creatures is the subject of this small watercolour painting Study of the head of a bat, full face (1888). Fine brush strokes show the individual hairs on the head of this tiny one-eyed bat. He or she stares out at us and, although it is not recorded, we suspect the artist may have named her pet. What do you think this little creature might have been called?
Although Potter made many drawings from nature, many are more familiar with her book illustrations. Potter is best known as the author and illustrator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), a children’s story featuring an adventurous young rabbit in the garden of the human villain Mr. McGregor. Along with Peter Rabbit, Potter published more than 20 other children’s books throughout her career, featuring characters such as Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Timmy Tiptoes.