This exhibition (updated July 2018) is organized to show examples of each of the main groups of styles that Petit exhibited during his career, more or less chronologically, following that set out in the British Art Journal (2017) and in the ‘Art’ page on this website. After each lead picture, 1, 2, etc there is a drop down entry to others of that style 1.1, 1.2, or 2.1, 2.2 etc. Differences from the previous version, are a few more pictures in each category, and removal of all circle pictures to a separate group at the end.
Petit’s early landscapes, until around 1835, are mainly views in the midlands or the south east. They are a mix of the classical, where he is clearly following the conventions of watercolour drawing of the time, and more experimental where he tries out new styles. The classical show similarities to De Wint.
1. Near Rochester, Kent, Rev J L Petit
c 1832, 18x12cm, watercolour on paper, private collection
During his stay at Bradfield in Essex he often travelled across the estuary to North Kent and there is a group of Rochester views all from one album, from which this comes. The paper was somewhat weaker than he later used which means that few are in exhibitable condition despite the care of their workmanship.
For more early landscapes click here
Early Monochrome Pictures, Mid 1830s
This group consists mainly of churches from the Midlands and south of England and the Low Countries. Just as his early landscapes follows de Wint, so his early buildings are strongly reminiscent of Samuel Prout, whose drawings from the Flanders and the Low Countries he admired, and with whom he was acquainted. See especially 2.1 and 2.6. Yet he quickly developed a more original and equally powerful presentation. They all date from the latter part of his time at Bradfield, 1831-34, and perhaps to 1836.
2. Ulverton Abbey, Leicestershire, Rev J L Petit
c1830-35, 19x27cm, watercolour on paper, private collection.
Probably somewhat later than the dateable picture of Canterbury Cathedral shown at 2.1, this beautifully captures the pathos of the ruined abbey, of which there are so many across the UK. It is a subject which he would often return, especially in the mid-1840s (see section 6)
For more early churches click here
1837-42 Finished Churches UK
After the monochrome, there is a more coloured phase in which are some of the most well finished UK Churches, some of which were copied for illustration in Remarks, many just for pleasure. Petit’s style has moved on from the monochrome to become colourful, even exuberant, a phase that only lasted 5 years until his conflict with the Ecclesiologists started.
3. Tong Church, Shropshire; Rev J L Petit
c 1841, 23.5x18cm, watercolour on paper, the Ian Cooke Collection.
One of Petit’s favourite subjects and one of the few churches that figures three times in his writings – in his first two books and an article. This watercolour was used as the basis for the main illustration in Petit’s article on Tong Church in the Archaeological Journal in 1845
For more c1840 churches click here
1837-42 UK Landscapes
At the same time Petit continues to draw some landscapes, also colourfully and well finished. They can sometimes be more experimental, as if he is trying out effects to be later deployed on his important tours for his first book.
4 Thorpe Cloud, Derbyshire, Rev J L Petit
1837-40, 25x32cm, watercolour on paper, private collection.
This landscape was taken from the terrace of the Izaac Walton Hotel, across the River Dove, in Staffordshire. The hotel was already a thriving inn at that time.
For more 1837-42 landscapes click here
The Remarks Tours
The last tour to the continent in preparation for his first book was probably undertaken in 1839 and covered Italy and France, with earlier trips to the Low Countries (see section 2 above) and the Rhine valley to Switzerland. Those from this last trip are Petit’s most colourful and, for some, his best period of all. Beauvais cathedral on the home page is also from this period
5. St Pierre Sur Dives, Normandy, Rev J L Petit (1801-68),
c1839, 24x16cm, watercolour on paper, private collection.
Copied for one of the last illustrations in Remarks, opposite p266 of Vol 2, this is typical of his last tour for his first book. “A noble edifice, with three towers: the large and lofty one in the centre is of Complete Gothic…”
For more of the Remarks pictures, click here
Mid 1840s Transition Period, UK
This group represents a transition from the colourful and carefully finished work of the late 1830s and early 1840s, towards the sketches that would dominate Petit’s later years. One starts to see an underlying reddish tone that in later years would dominate the sketches, and a lack of peripheral features to concentrate on getting the essence of the subject. There are ruins, churches and a few landscapes all from the UK. There are no known continental trips until 1850.
6 Croyland Abbey, Rev J L Petit
c1845, 32x24cm, watercolour on paper, private collection
One of the key arguments by Petit (and also by Ruskin), was that original Gothic was a product of a much more violent, ‘savage’ society, which Victorian England would not want to emulate. Nothing captures the savagery of original Northern Gothic better than Petit’s 1840s pictures of ruined abbeys. This is likely to date from 1845, when he painted most, if not all, of the ruined abbeys and medieval churches in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
For more transition pictures, click here
Architectural Sketches 1848-68
The architectural sketches were Petit’s main occupation for the last 20 years of his life, assembling an enormous collection from which to present his writing and speaking. Many are hasty notes not intended for public view. Particularly important are those reproduced in his later publications: his third major book Architectural Studies in France (7. – 7.2) and later articles.
7. Poitiers Notre Dame, Rev J L Petit
1851, 22x34cm, watercolour on paper, private collection
This is reproduced on page 104 of Architectural Studies in France. It is some way between the finished and unfinished categories, because it portrays elements of context in the foreground, although still showing pencil lines etc. For anyone who has visited Poitiers this perfectly captures the remarkable beauty of that church.
For more architectural sketches click here
Architectural Sketches Finished For Exhibition
There is no clear dividing line between architectural sketches, and those that were finished for exhibition during his speeches. It is a matter of judging those that demonstrate attention to colour, detail, and presentational aspects. Shown in quantity, a hundred at a time, they created an extraordinary impression according to many reports from the time.
8. Cathedral Padua, Rev J L Petit
1854, 24x34cm, watercolour on paper, the I Cooke collection
Petit’s tour of Italy in 1854 provided the material for his speech to RIBA on Italian Church Architecture in 1855. This is an example of the best of his sketches of that trip presumably destined to be hung at that meeting.
For more finished sketches click here
Later Finished Work
The sketches were all organized, labeled and numbered by Petit’s sister Emma. Apart from this collection at various times Petit produced works which are clearly more artistic. These show the range of his talent, right up to his death in 1868. Most impressive are the awe-inspiring landscapes and atmospheric town views which demonstrate the power in his art (9-9.2), though he was also capable of quieter landscapes and vignettes (9.3-4) and a wide variety.
9 Val D’Ossau, Pyrenees, France, Rev J L Petit
c1853, 25x35cm, watercolour on paper, private collection
1853 is the first proven visit to the Pyrennees, around Pau, an area he was to return to several times over the next 10 years. On each occasion one can find dramatic mountain views – ‘God’s works’ as Petit would call such natural beauty, in contrast to which man’s architecture cannot be compared
For other landscape finished later work click here
Circle Of Petit
For circle pictures, click here