Welcome to the John Louis Petit website

“The greatest discovery in British Art for a generation….” Andrew Graham-Dixon

This website has been established by The JL Petit Society, as part of its work to promote a wider understanding and appreciation of the Petit’s life and work, including his architectural writing as well as painting.


Information about JL Petit is on the Art, Architecture, Biography and Exhibition pages.

Information about the Petit Society and its activities and services is in the Publications, Shop, Schools and About Us pages. Contact us at enquiries@revpetit.com

Latest News

March 2023

The latest book on Petit – JL Petit Britain’s Lost Pre-Impressionist – launched in London last year, will be presented in Lichfield on Friday 24th March (12 noon, The George Hotel) as part of the Lichfield Literary Festival. Tickets can be booked on the Lichfield Festival’s website.

This follows a successful launch in the Black Country at the Wolverhampton Literature Festival, on Black Country Radio and in BlackcountryMan, showcasing pictures such as the above.

The JL Petit Society is now active on social media. Find us on Instagram, Linked-In, Tik-Tok and Facebook @The Petit Society. Our Instagram posts often receive several thousand views.

November 2022

The book launch received wide media coverage in newspapers (eg The Guardian), magazines (eg Country Life, Antique Collecting) and over ten outlets in total.

The Society’s registration as a charity was accepted by the Charity Commissioners. This has big potential implications for what might be accomplished, if we manage to to use the registration to raise funds. The Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, is a patron of the Society. 

Next talk: Landor Society, Rugeley, November 16th, 7 or 7.30

A Christmas offer for members and supporters will go out in early November

August 2022

The long awaited first, introductory, book is ready and will be launched on 12th September 2022. J L Petit – Britain’s Lost Pre-Impressionist is so far gaining several very positive endorsements and reviews, with a big launch planned for September 13th, to include a pop-up exhibition – the first since 1869 and introductions by Dr Robin Simon, editor of the British Art Journal, and Andrew Graham-Dixon.

Andrew Graham-Dixon, author of A History of British Art, and broadcaster has written:

“There has been nothing like this in the field of British art for a long time. This book marks the rediscovery of a more or less completely forgotten master – an artist whose work, particularly in the medium of watercolour, reaches the highest peaks of innovation and virtuosity, worthy of comparison with that even of Turner. High praise, but not too high.

What is also extraordinary about Petit’s work is the breadth of his subject matter and his remarkable lack of sentimentality.
Few Victorian artists chose to bear witness to the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the fabric of life in this country, but Petit did anything but shy away from it: he painted factories and smogs with the same impassioned interest that he brought to the more traditional themes of the English watercolorist, such as village, church and cathedral.”

Autumn talks scheduled:

September 22nd: The Churches Conservation Trust, Lunchtime lecture  (zoom);

November 16th: The Landor Society, Rugeley

March 2022

The first new publication this year is now available from us directly, prior to launch in the Spring/Summer. Clarke, Petit and St Mark’s – A 19th Century Journey on the Isle of Man.

This booklet tells the story of John Thomas Clarke (1798-1888), Petit’s lifelong friend, who transformed the derelict district of St Mark’s, Isle of Man, with Petit’s help; and then late in life rescued Petit’s church at Caerdeon after Petit had tied, becoming its first vicar. Like Petit, Clarke has been forgotten even at St Mark’s through a combination of intrigue and accident. The booklet (48 pages) illustrates nearly all known Petit’s watercolours – 26, which have never been seen before.

October 2021

Research has now switched to North Wales and The Isle of Man. Petit had a long standing relationship with the Island which bore fruit after his death when his church at Caerdeon was saved by the intervention of his friend John Thomas Clarke, in his 75th year. More specifically it has led to the discovery of nearly thirty Petit pictures of the Island that were not known before and together constitute some of the most remarkable art of the Island from the mid-19th Century. To be published in a few months.

St Michael’s church, Lichfield have posted videos on their website of the visit of Bishop Michael Ipgrave visit on Sunday 26th September, where Petit was referred to in the sermon, and then the Board andPetit’s achievements acknowledged in a ceremony by the Interpretation Board. The Board has been a catalyst for several other improvements in the churchyard, and the restart of tours for visitors.

The remnants of an early album with 38 pictures still intact was discovered in a dealers store-room and acquired for the Society. They are mostly marine pictures from the Stour, Harwich and the attached of the Thames.

August 2021

We and The Historian were delighted with the entries for the first annual essay prize for school students. The winning essay is here. It demonstrates our view that Petit, because of his modern views and steadfast opposition to prevailing orthodoxy, is very accessible to a younger generation.

June 2021

Research continued with completion of a book on Petit’s art, which should be published early in 2022. This will be a milestone in the Petit world, since the only existing book is oriented more to the midlands. It sets out Petit’s significance in foreshadowing many aspects of impressionism in contrast to his UK peers. Lectures have resumed.

  1. Information boards in Lichfield are now up. One in St Michael’s churchyard near the family vault, and one, shared with the The Johnson Society, on Tamworth St in the City Centre where Petit formerly lived with his mother and sisters. Further boards in Staffordshire and beyond are being explored
  2. The two albums of Petit’s pen and ink drawings for his first book were dumped unattributed in a small local auction. Thankfully the dealer who bought them contacted us and about 220 of the 285 drawings have been rescued by the Society and its individual members. Conservation is underway. We plan to offer limited edition prints of the drawings for sale through the website.
  3. The above was partly accomplished by the Society selling a couple of watercolours. This sets a precedent that we may continue, see Publications and Shop page.
  4. The schools project has started (see special page). We are sponsoring an essay prize through the Young Historian annual essay competition. So far 8 schools are participating.
    St James, Gerrards Cross
  5. An article has been published in The Historian, concerning St James, Gerrards Cross (architect Sir William Tite, 1857) and Petit’s influence on the design. The evidence is circumstantial but strong, since Petit had long advocated this style. Tite later acknowledged his debt. We hope it will lead to an upgrading of this church.
  6. Thanks also to the members who have joined and supported the Society both in cash and kind. Every contact is much appreciated.


From Pau, France, 1859



Please address all queries to enquiries@revpetit.com

Website last updated: May 2022. 

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