Peter De Wint 1784 - 1849
‘I do so love painting … I am never quite so happy as when looking at nature. Mine is a beautiful profession’ So Peter DeWint told his wife Harriet.
Peter DeWint was a keen observer of nature and his work gives us an insight into the variety of landscape across the British Isles during the first half of the nineteenth century. This period of history, along with watercolour painting, was a time of great change, it was a period of urban growth and agricultural revolution. Simultaneously watercolour painting not only grew in popularity, becoming an accepted medium for the serious artist, but also went through its own revolution, which we find subtly acknowledged in the work of this artist.
The Usher Gallery, now part of The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire, houses the largest collection of works by Peter DeWint in the country. DeWint, born in Staffordshire, was adopted by Lincolnshire through his marriage to Harriet Hilton, sister of his close friend William Hilton (artist and later Keeper at the Royal Academy). His work also depicted the unfashionable Lincolnshire landscape.
‘at Lincoln and the neighbourhood (he) found new beauties and new subjects, and what a commonplace observer would consider flat and unmeaning was in his eyes picturesque afforded him unceasing delight’.
Born at Hanley, Staffordshire and apprenticed in London to the engraver and painter John Raphael Smith, Peter DeWint quickly established himself as a major landscape painter. Eminent contemporaries included his friend, John Constable, John Varley, David Cox and Samuel Palmer.
A fellow apprentice at Smith’s was William Hilton from Lincoln, who was later to become Keeper of the Royal Academy. DeWint and Hilton became life long friends and in 1810 DeWint married Hilton’s sister, Harriet. Together the three set up home in Percy Street, London.
DeWint and Hilton had a house built in Lincoln for Hilton’s parents and so Lincoln was visited frequently, providing DeWint with a rich source of subject matter.
The summer months were spent searching for subjects in England and Wales (only once did he travel abroad to Normandy in1828). The subjects were varied and included harvest scenes, mountainous and lowland landscapes, shipping and rivers, antiquities and towns and still life and plant studies. All are characterised by a broadness of conception and attention to significant and accurate detail.
In character DeWint was pious and at times difficult but appears to have been well liked by his pupils and many patrons. He and Hilton also had a wide circle of literary friends.
His wife’s memoir, written following his death, remains our main source of information about his life and career.