Photo exhibition of Beatrix Potter’s father opens

A new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery displays the photography of Rupert Potter, father of the beloved children’s author Beatrix

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Rupert Potter, Beatrix Potter and Bertram Potter in Lennel, Coldstream by Rupert Potter, 1894. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

The amateur photography of Beatrix Potter’s father Rupert will be explored in a new display opening at the National Portrait Gallery to celebrate the centenary of his death. As well as two new acquisitions showing Beatrix Potter on holiday with her father, The World of Rupert Potter: Photographs of Beatrix, Millais and Friends will display portraits taken by Rupert Potter of close family friends, showing the circles within which he socialised and the influence this had on his daughter’s life and work.

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Beatrix Potter; Rupert Potter; Hardwicke Rawnsley by Rupert Potter, 11 September 1906. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Rupert Potter (1832-1914) was a  lawyer and a keen photographer who took many carefully posed portraits, particularly during the Potters’ summer holidays in the Lake District and Scotland, displaying  technical skill and aesthetic ability.

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Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt in his studio at 2 Palace Gate, Kensington by Rupert Potter, July 1886. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

His particular interest was in portrait photography and, thanks to his friendship with the painter Sir John Everett Millais, Potter began taking photographs of Millais’ sitters and paintings. Millais was so impressed by Potter’s photographs that he often used them to assist his working process, such as for his ‘Rosebery’ portrait of William E Gladstone, the second of his four paintings of the Prime Minister.

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‘Nell Gwynne’ (Effie Gray James (nee Millais)) by Rupert Potter, 7 June 1882. ©National Portrait Gallery, London
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Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt by Rupert Potter, 29 August 1881. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Beatrix Potter’s journals from the 1880s and 1890s reveal the influence of her exposure to the art world and the life of a working artist before becoming one herself. She later used photography to aid her work, learning with one of her father’s old cameras.

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Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt with unidentified man by Rupert Potter, October 1881. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

The World of Rupert Potter: Photographs of Beatrix, Millais and Friends is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 13 May to 16 November 2014, Room 28. For more information visit www.npg.org.uk

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