Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of the Arts


Art and Design

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Anns Betty Weinshenker

Committee Member

Dorothy Heard

Committee Member

Elizabeth V. Del Alamo


This paper explores the visual imagery in the mice illustrations of Beatrix Potter (British, 1866-1943), author and illustrator of children’s books. The research focuses primarily on the mouse tales Potter created in the early part of the twentieth century. It takes into account her personal life - including her artistic background, youthful training, and naturalist studies which informs her art. Revelatory evidence sheds light on historical background information and the significant sources that inspired and influenced her work.

Several analytical techniques are utilized -including biographical, formal/stylistic, iconographical, cultural and social history - to explore and find meaning in Potter’s mice images, all within the context of her time. The approach taken here draws on Potter’s personal journal and correspondence, recent research, secondary sources and various data. Taken together with selected images from her sketches, published and unpublished work, picture-letters and books, insight into the varying approaches she took becomes manifest. A clear pattern emerges showing that over a period of time, Potter closely identified with her mice and found her voice in them.

By focusing on her mouse tales, this study is intended to show they are deeply personal, with roots in memories of her own youth, in nursery rhymes, fables, imagery of places she visited and lived in, and the animals and people who figured largely in her life. It is proposed that Potter’s own pet mice - Xarifa, Hunca Munca, Tom Thumb, Appley Dapply, to name the favorites, were her Muses - providing the spark for a plethora of artistic creations.

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