Pat Morris

Walter Potter and His Curious Taxidermy

I gave a talk about the curious taxidermy created by Walter Potter (1835-1918). His taxidermy tableaux of The Kittens Wedding, The Original Death and Burial of Cock Robin, Squirrels’ Club and Rabbits’ School were among the extraordinary exhibits at his little museum in Bramber, Sussex. The collection transferred to other sites in the late twentieth century and was finally auctioned piecemeal just ten years ago in 2003. The exhibits were world famous and by that time had probably been visited by more than a million people. Millions more must have seen them on TV and in the newspapers. They represent an era when we viewed animals differently and the tableaux posed difficult ethical challenges – but also caused endless fascination and amusement, just as their creator had intended. Despite all this, none of our national museums showed any interest in acquiring the collection and it has now become widely dispersed here and abroad. My talk served to illustrate this sorry tale and also to launch a new book about Potter’s work – Walter Potter and His Curious Taxidermy by Pat Morris and Joanna Ebenstein, published by Constable Robinson, 2013. It’s an elegant volume which beautifully illustrates examples of Victorian whimsy, the like of which we will not see again.