The Petit Society, Activities, Volunteers, Membership
The Society’s objectives are to develop good information about, and increase awareness of, Petit, and his achievements both as an artist and as architectural commentator. This page explains:
- our activities – research and publications; and awareness raising through speaking, promotion and exhibitions
- services offered
- Volunteering, Current vacancies
- Our Charitable status and how to become a member
- contact details
Activities: Research and Publications
Nothing worthwhile had been published about Petit until recent times.
The November 2017 (volume 18, no2) article in the British Art Journal (http://www.britishartjournal.co.uk) marked the first peer reviewed assessment of his artistic achievements. It simply illustrated how his style developed over his career.
Concerning his architectural writing, Ecclesiology Today, journal of the Ecclesiological Society (http://ecclsoc.org) published a peer reviewed article in their July 2018 vol 55-56 issue. This summarised key contributions and pointed out how he had been downplayed by Pevsner and subsequent writers, despite being the key opponent to Gothic, pioneer of preservation well before Morris or Ruskin, and pioneer in recognising railway architecture.
Since then three books have been published (see RPS Publications) and this website established with an easy to access summary of current research.
Research continues because there is much more to discover that is valuable. Not just to fill out information gaps, but because Petit’s art and architectural approach is relevant today. Petit was the first to explore impressionism and modern art in Britain, and the first to reject architectural fashion, advocating utilizing both all historical styles and all modern methods.
A secondary objective is to correct ‘fake news’. Earlier biographies all contained both significant factual inaccuracies, omissions and, in our opinion, over hasty judgments. Those on art dealer websites, or wikipedia have been corrected. Ebay dealers still carry some old material. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (http://www.oxforddnb.com) is the major remaining problem. having agreed to publish corrections and review the balance of its entry, four years ago, it has still not actually done so, and their 18 year old inaccurate and incomplete entry, not using any recent research, is still their latest.
Correcting mis-attributions of artwork continues. The key London watercolour dealers (Abbott and Holder, Chris Beetles, Guy Peppiatt) do not mis-attribute Petit watercolours; however those advertised by traders on ebay are sometimes not right and occasionally resist correction. Auctions are not reliable.
We regularly give talks, around 6-10 each year for the past three years. Subjects include:
- Introduction to J L Petit
- Petit’s Art – Britain’s Lost pre-Impressionist
- Petit’s Architecture – The Father of Post-Modernism ?
- Petit The Pioneer of Preservation and The Battle for St Mary’s
Should you be interested in a talk please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The third objective aims to promote exhibitions of his work, either singly as part of other exhibitions, or more importantly large exhibitions of his work only. Petit’s work and achievement can best be appreciated when viewing many examples alongside each other. In this way it is possible to appreciate the incredible range and beauty of our architectural heritage, from across Europe, and begin to see what he was trying to communicate as a pre-impressionist.
The Society has developed records of the locations of many Petit works and is always keen to hear from Petit owners to add to its records. It offers to support any proposed exhibition of Petit with advice and interpretative material, and helping exhibitors understand the range of work available, and sourcing such material, whether from public or private collections.
Activities: Public Collections
Finally, we aimed to ensure that there will be reference collections of his work in museums. By reference collections we mean covering all his different styles, which varied over his lifetime, and including architectural sketches and work of his sisters for comparison, and so that these are no longer a source of confusion. The biggest public collection at present is at the National Library of Wales. It is not very accessible for most of the population, and nothing is on display; so in the longer term we plan for something larger, more central, and more visible.
The Society has acquired and will continue to acquire some Petit’s work for these purposes. Together with its members and associate members it is aware of about 25% of the 8,000 works which were dumped and dispersed in the 1980s, so there is still a long way to go.
We support others who are also promoting Petit. Most especially:
- the Friends of Friendless Churches, http://friendsoffriendlesschurches.org.uk who have taken over Petit’s one completed church at Caerdeon in North Wales, and are raising funds for remedial work.
- Local historical and heritage societies. Petit is an important artist of many locations in the UK, France and to a lesser extent elsewhere
- St Michael’s Church, Lichfield in looking after his family’s burial vault and putting up an interpretation board
- Lichfield District and City Councils in efforts they are making or may make to commemorate Petit
- The Victorian Society, where we are a charity member
Volunteers and Current Vacancies
Volunteers do all our work. We can offer great work experience (with expenses!) for Art or Heritage minded younger folk; and a never ending interest and opportunity for older folk who have a little time to spare. Now we would like to:
- Build up the on-line presence of The Petit Society, link to more other sites, post more frequently, start instagram presence;
- Research family descendants and complete the family tree in three or four directions, so as hopefully to find more lost pictures;
- Do the ground work for more boards in Staffordshire and elsewhere leading towards an application for funds from the Lottery Fund (which is positive in principle);
- Catalogue and build a database of all pictures; Writing and printing cards/certificates/labels for pictures; plan small exhibitions;
- Build schools and educational activity
Do write in.
The Society’s application to register as a charity was accepted in 2022. Charity registration number 1199262.
Associate membership of the Society is open to those who want to help promote its objectives, or just support us. We hope all Petit owners will want to join. In Autumn 2022, or in 2023, we plan to set a low annual fee. Please contact us at email@example.com.
Our constitution currently follows the model for the smallest charitable organisation. There are four members/Trustees (all full members are Trustees and vice versa). Full membership/trusteeship will be open to all those who help the Society for a couple of years.
The Society currently offers the following services:
- Information and materials to incorporate J L Petit into curricula at different levels, eg for schools
- Speakers for historical associations, U3A, Arts Societies. usually we charge out of pocket expenses or a small fee in lieu.
- Matching buyers and sellers of pictures.
- Organising loans of individual pictures or groups of pictures for exhibitions. Currently, directly and through associated private collections, we have access to over 450 exhibition standard works, many more sketches, and works by his sisters for supporting material and comparison. We also have copies of the majority of his 6 books and estimated 50 articles and speeches (although not all).
- Authentication. Since Petit did not sign his work, and nor did his sisters, most of their work is passed off as his. In one recent auction a work dated after his death was attributed to him. We give opinions on attribution, based on experience of having viewed over 3,000 works over the past five years, and offer certificates of authenticity for longer term validation of the artwork.
Please address all queries to firstname.lastname@example.org