Photographed during Riggs Hotel stay? Title supplied from inscription. Inscribed in pencil by Rupert Potter: Windermere from Low Wood / Ap. 1909 / R Potter / B dev.
Catalog number: 466
Potter, Rupert, 1832-1914
Rupert William Potter was born in 1832, the second son of Edmund Potter (1802-1883), a wealthy calico printer, and Jessy Crompton (1800-1891). Rather than assisting in the management of the family enterprise, Rupert Potter trained as a barrister, enrolling at Lincoln's Inn in 1854. In 1857 he established offices in London, but did not devote most of his time to his practice. In 1863 he married Helen Leech (1839-1932), daughter of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant. Before the birth of their first child Beatrix, in 1866, the Potters purchased a 4-story home at No. 2 Bolton Gardens, Kensington, London, where they lived for the next thirty years. Their second child, William Bertram, was born in 1872.
Like his father, Rupert actively associated with politicians, artists, and intellectuals, many of whom appear as subjects in his portraits. Radical reform politician John Bright, the painter John Everett Millais, and the aging minister William Gaskell were among the family's close friends and were frequently photographed by Rupert. Rupert also photographed sitters in Millais' studio and gave the painter photographs to be used as drawing aids and background studies. Rupert had been an avid sketcher in his youth, and after moving to London he was a regular visitor at galleries and exhibitions. His wife, too, exhibited talent as a watercolorist, and both children were encouraged to draw and paint.
The Potter family took two prolonged holidays each year, and the majority of the photographs in this collection were taken during holiday periods. For about three weeks at Easter the family went to the sea, usually to Devon or Cornwall, while the house at Bolton Gardens was cleaned for spring. During the summer the entire household spent three months in the country. The Potters did not own a summer house, but from 1871 to 1881 they rented Dalguise House in Dalguise, Scotland, which Beatrix fondly remembered as her childhood home. At Dalguise, Beatrix and Bertram employed themselves collecting plant and animal specimens which they drew, mounted, or stuffed. They also kept small animals as pets, including mice and rabbits. Many of Rupert's portraits of family and friends are taken outside the front door at Dalguise, where the bright summer sun was ideal for photographic exposures.
When Dalguise House was sold in 1882 and its new owner demanded a rent that Rupert Potter deemed exorbitant, the family instead took Wray Castle on the west shore of Windermere in the Lake District. For the next two decades the family spent almost every summer in the Lake District, renting various homes on the shores of Windermere, Derwentwater, and Esthwaite water. A number of Rupert Potter's portrait photographs were also made on visits to the family's estate, Camfield Place, Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
Not a great deal is known about Rupert Potter's methods and aims as a photographer. Beatrix's journal, which she kept in code-writing from 1881 to 1897, describes many photographic outings that she made alone or with her father. Beyond this, the photographs themselves are a rich source for the study of amateur photography among the leisured class in the late nineteenth century. The years of Rupert Potter's activity, from the 1860s to the 1910s, span photography's evolution from a nascent commercial art to a fully-fledged popular medium.