Welcome to the John Louis Petit website
John Louis Petit (1801-68) was an extraordinary, progressive, Victorian watercolour artist, whose work, for reasons that will be explained, has only recently been rediscovered. Yet Petit was more than just an artist, he was one of the leading architectural speakers and writers of his age, and one of very few who stood against the tide of copy gothic that was so fashionable in the 19th Century.
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 our objectives and activities, services and a contact point are on the About Us page; the other pages accessed through the menu along the top are self-explanatory. .
Two talks are planned for June:
- June 10th Tong, Shropshire
- June 25th St Mark’s, Isle of Man
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Thanks also to the members who have joined and supported the Society both in cash and kind. Every contact is much appreciated.