Her father, Rupert, was a talented amateur photographer, while her mother Helen enjoyed painting landscapes in watercolour. As Beatrix grew older, she went with her father to art galleries, museums and auction houses and this influenced her development as an artist.
Beatrix’s parents loved the countryside and often took their family on vacation out of London. Every year they would travel north, first to Scotland and later to the Lake District, for long summer vacations. Beatrix enjoyed the freedom of exploring the countryside with her brother, Bertram. The scenery, flowers and creatures she found inspired her drawing and painting.
“My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits ….”
In 1900, Beatrix borrowed back the letter and worked up a plan to get the story published. When at least six companies rejected her proposal, she decided to publish it herself. The privately printed edition was a great success and soon Beatrix had a publishing offer from Frederick Warne & Co.
Warne’s first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1902 and was immediately popular, selling around 46,000 copies in the first twelve months. Warne and Potter soon began to work on many more stories including, 'The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin', 'The Tailor of Gloucester', 'The Tale of Benjamin Bunny' and 'The Tale of Two Bad Mice'.
Beatrix had strong ideas about how her books should be presented, down to size, price and overall look. She also realised the wider market appeal of her characters and initiated the development of related merchandise, such as the Peter Rabbit doll manufactured by Steiff, Germany, in 1903. She always took an interest in all of the creative and commercial matters surrounding her characters and books.
Benjamin Bouncer was Beatrix's first pet rabbit.
She bought him secretly from a London bird shop and sneaked him into the nursery in a paper bag. 'Bounce' became the model for many of Beatrix's rabbit drawings. On the back of a photograph of him, Beatrix wrote "This is the original 'Benjamin Bunny'. Benjamin was extremely fond of hot buttered toast, he used to hurry into the drawing room when he heard the tea-bell!"