The Artists of Lichfield

John Glover, Henry Salt, Reverend John Louis Petit, Henry Gastineau. Who are they? And what is their connection with Lichfield? We have all heard of the more famous sons and daughters of the city but if you stop anyone in the street in Lichfield and provide them with these names, one suspects the response will be a shrug of the shoulders and a quizzical look on the face. Yet all four are, in the art world, famous artists whose paintings can command substantial sums of money.

Maureen Piper provided much interesting background history to these artists when she spoke to members of the Civic Society on the evening of 20th June at St Mary's Centre. Maureen started her talk with John Glover, who spent ten years of his life from 1794 to 1804 in Lichfield; having been born in 1767 at Houghton-on-the-Hill in Leicestershire. Son of an agricultural worker, he was a keen drawer from birth who moved to Appleby Magna as writing master at the Free School there. He left Leicestershire in 1794 to spend ten years in Lichfield where he set up as a drawing master. Living in John Street, he gave lessons at a cost of two guineas each to budding artists - one of which was Henry Salt. His own particular forte was watercolour landscape painting and Maureen displayed copies of his work during her talk, including interestingly an oil painting of St Chad's Church in Lichfield.

By 1795 he was displaying his drawings and paintings at the Royal Academy, joining the Watercolour Society in 1804. He displayed many of his paintings in his gallery in London, to where he had moved after leaving Lichfield in 1804. By 1814 Maureen reported that he had moved to Paris by way of Switzerland and Italy, returning by 1818 to settle in the Lake District at Ullswater. By 1820 he owned his own gallery in Old Bond Street in London but, an inveterate traveller, in 1830 he emigrated to West Australia; funding this move by a large scale sale of his works.

After a six-month and very adventurous voyage, he eventually settled in Tasmania; sheep farming. His interest in painting gradually waned and he painted very little for the last ten years of his life, dying in Tasmania in 1849 at the age of 82.

Maureen then moved on to talk about Henry Salt, who was born in 1780, the son of a Bore Street doctor. From local school he went to boarding school at Market Bosworth and, like John Glover, always wanted to be a painter but in this case one concentrating on portraiture. Following a short period of study with John Glover he moved to London where he met Lord Valentia who became his patron. He went with him to India and Ceylon on a four-year study tour which took him as far afield as Abyssinia. During this period of time Salt made an extensive number of drawings which, upon his return, he used as a basis for completed studies which were published in his travel books. Such was his knowledge of the Middle and Far East that in 1809 the British Government sent him to Abyssinia in an effort to cultivate new trade links with the tribes in that area. By 1815 he was Consul General in Egypt, marrying locally. The tragic death of his wife after a short marriage led to him concentrating for the remainder of his life on the collection and documentation of Egyptian antiquities and he died in his 40s - Salt was never a well man - in 1827. Interred in Alexandria, his grave formed the basis of a small Protestant cemetery there.

Reverend John Louis Petit was born at Ashton-under-Lyne in 1801 and was active briefly in Lichfield for a short period of time during his life. Coming from a wealthy family, he was educated at Eton and Cambridge and studied architecture. He was ordained as a minister but never held a living, choosing to develop his interests in painting and architecture. This led to him travelling extensively including short stays in Lichfield besides visits to France to study ecclesiastic architecture. He occupied a house that he had built at Upper Longdon whilst resident in Lichfield.

Finally, Maureen turned to Henry Gastineau who occupied Lyncroft House for a short while between 1863 and 1864. Born in 1791, Gastineau travelled extensively, drawing inspiration from picturesque subjects. Many of his paintings show a Turner influence. We know that by 1812 he was exhibiting at the Royal Academy and continued to do so until 1830.

Maureen's detective work provided much material for a gripping evening. Despite the fact that these painters are relatively unknown in Lichfield, not only have they left their mark in the paintings which are in public and private collections throughout the United Kingdom, but through intermarriage it can be truly said that there will be Lichfield residents who, unbeknown to themselves, are distantly related to them; the Lichfield group of artists.

Roger Hockney
June 2002