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While Petit is known for his church pictures, artistically his landscapes are more important. This is described in the overview essay and shown in the exhibition. Landscapes occur from all over Europe but there are particularly large and varied groups from certain regions of the UK and France.These make Petit a notable artist of these regions:
- North Wales
and in France:
- The Pyrenees
- South East France
There is also good art, but in smaller amounts from the Black Country, the Dorset/Devon coast, The Isle of Wight, Essex and the River Stour; and on the continent the mid-Rhine region
Petit must rank as one of Staffordshire’s greatest historical artists. That is perhaps not saying as much as we would like because Staffordshire was not as popular as other counties in attracting the attention of artists. Peter de Wint was from Staffordshire but did not paint it that much. Indeed until we are dissuaded of the fact we will maintain that Petit has painted Staffordshire more widely and more beautifully than any other artist, based on:
- The Lichfield landscapes from 1857-68
- His ‘domestic’ landscapes around Longdon, mostly in 1867 and 1868
- The early Dovedale pictures, from the 1830s
- On Cannock Chase c1843, and
- Around Stafford, mostly 1840-41
These are fully illustrated in the book Petit’s Tours of Old Staffordshire, and there are many scattered across the exhibition on this site. So no more here.
If one searches for historical landscape artists of Derbyshire one finds the magnificent but few 18th century works by Joseph Wright of Derby and the many typically pretty works by the Gresley dynasty of four artists, George Turner and the odd great work by many others. Petit presents well alongside these, in quality and quantity, such that he may be considered an important artist of Derbyshire, with
- dramatic and realistic peak country views from the 1830s
- a specific set of landscape studies from between Ashbourne and Norbury from 1838 (some included in book)
In addition there are the detailed church studies of both places and a range of unusual tree sketches too. All are from the 1830s.
More so than for Derbyshire, many great artists have painted a few pictures of Yorkshire – there is a tour of locations which Turner painted – and there are also well known artists of Yorkshire origin. Art curator and historian Jane Sellars published a book Art and Yorkshire in 2014. Nevertheless even alongside the greats Petit’s art stands up well, by being more modern and impressionistic than the classical watercolourists. The ruins are more savage and less romantically pretty picturesque.
Petit’s art of Yorkshire includes abbey ruins, landscapes around Rivaulx, both from a lengthy stay in 1844, distant church views of the places he studied, especially York, Howden, Beverley, spread over his career, and some quite wild landscapes near Easegill in the dales, believed to be from 1843.
There are many renowned artists from Kent, including Turner and Samuel Palmer; and many others painted its coast and countryside, including even Van Gogh. Petit visited Kent mainly early in his career when his style had not matured. Later pictures are fewer. Therefore, in comparison to the other important regions we do not say that Petit is significant for Kent, but that Kent is significant for Petit
Petit’s Kent landscapes are of three types:
- The ‘honeymoon’ album of sunny pictures, presumed to be from the summer of 1828, one of which is shown in the Exhibition,
- A series of pictures around Rochester and along the Medway, mostly shipping but not all, thought to date from 1832-42
- A smattering of later landscapes
This excludes the many church pictures from Kent, from the celebrated to obscure beautiful gems such as the Minster in the Isle of Sheppey.
There are many renowned Welsh landscape artists, starting with Richard Wilson (1713-82). Of those from outside who took inspiration from its mountains, David Cox (1783-1859) is particularly relevant since he is also considered an impressionistic watercolourist. Petit visited North Wales and Anglesey once early in his career, then around 1850 and subsequently every year from 1858 until the year before his death in 1867. The reason for such frequent visits was to construct the Caerdeon Chapel near Barmouth for his brother-in-law, between 1861 and 1862. He returned presumably to visit the family. Besides pictures of ‘his’ church there are very many later landscapes of the region many of which are very fine. Petit may eventually regarded no less highly than any of those more widely known.