Selected by Jonathan Dodd

DENNIS CREFFIELD, Petworth (South End from the East), 1991-92


In the Spring of 1991 Dennis Creffield went down to Petworth House in Sussex in his ‘camper’ at the invitation of the National Trust’s Foundation for Art. The original intention was to spend a few days making drawings and perhaps a painting or two. In the grand artistic tradition, Creffield stayed for nearly a year, painting and drawing throughout the bitterly cold winter with his caravan parked in a secluded courtyard. These works were formed into a touring exhibition ‘Dennis Creffield, Paintings of Petworth’ by the recently departed and much lamented art dealer Gillian Jason and shown in her gallery, at Petworth House, and in the city art galleries of Peterborough, Durham and Brighton.


During a short summer holiday on the South Coast, last week I had the pleasure of visiting Petworth House. Like Turner before him, Creffield painted a number of views from the house looking out across the deer park as well as general views in the grounds. But by far the greatest number of his paintings are of the South End of the house. As it became apparent to me visiting as a member of the public, this is the section of the house private to Lord and Lady Egremont, and overlooks their own private gardens. With the rest of the house given over to the National Trust, this is the more informal back end of the house, secluded from the prying eyes of the great unwashed who have come to see the marvellous collection of paintings and Capability Brown’s 700 acre park.


The sense of intimacy with this great house was something that obviously appealed to Creffield. The relatively confined space of the gardens meant that the house could only be seen looming up, the perspectives foreshortened, and the lowest part of the house seen close to. In that sense these views of the house call to mind Monet’s series of views of Rouen Cathedral, painted from the restricted viewing points on the narrow streets and the slightly cramped square. But Creffield had an almost unique ability to convey simultaneously a sense of history and of the moment, something that gives his well-known series of views of English cathedrals a special place in the history of art. His oil paintings of the South End of Petworth House are not an attempt to precisely delineate the building or indeed the play of light upon it, but are a personal expression of his own sense of the house, its history, its aura if you like, the weight and mass of the stone, of time and place. William Packer wrote of these works that, “There is nothing to it of close and considered description, and yet there is a real and contradictory sense of the artist looking long and hard, knowing and feeling his subject deeply.”


We are delighted to have just taken possession of ‘Petworth (South End from the East)’ from the Estate of Dennis Creffield. This work and others from the Estate can be viewed from 16th September at our newly re-opened gallery space on the 2nd floor of 16 Savile Row, London W1S 3PL.


DENNIS CREFFIELD (British, 1931-2018)

Petworth (South End from the East), 1991-92

Oil on canvas

71 x 86 cm / 28 x 34 in


Petworth House from the south west

September 7, 2020