Walter Potter was a Victorian-age taxidermist from Sussex, England, who created a “museum” of remarkably creative, whimsical and unsettled dioramas of his work.
This short documentary by director Ronni Thomas — who created “The Midnight Archive” webseries chronicling strange and unique exotica — captures just why Potter’s work has endured well past the Victorian age, resonating with audiences today who appreciate the eccentricity and strange tenderness of his scenes.
The most famous of Potter’s dioramas feature tiny kittens in gowns attending a wedding or having a tea party. In other scenes, toads play on swings, monkeys ride goats and a robin has a funeral.
What makes the work remarkable is Potter’s fantastical imagination and attention to detail, no matter how small or quirky it may be. In fact, it’s these small flourishes that communicate a sense of the heartfelt and deeply adored, giving art that could simply be macabre a dimension of surprising emotion.
Potter was not well-known during his own lifetime and likely was simply an ordinary man living in a suburb in England, but who had ample passion, time and energy to pursue a unique hobby.
But his work has grown in interest and acclaim well beyond his death, and “Walter Potter: The Man Who Married Kittens” captures why, with an astute and surprisingly tender affection. The documentary records just why these strange scenes are captivating — as well as valorizes the idea that art and creativity can be found in the nooks and crannies of ordinary life, available to anyone with an idea or curiosity and the drive to explore it.