Peter Kent

A Peter Kent fan

For someone whose work is both instantly recognisable and almost omnipresent (can you have ‘almost’ omnipresent?) in and around Greenwich, Peter Kent himself is an enigma. I know nothing about him – and can find virutally nothing about him either.

You’ll know his work immediately – his is that sketchy, pencil-lined topographical drawing – sometimes with a watercolour wash, sometimes not. It’s nearly always of buildings, and incredibly detailed despite its sketchy appearance, a satisfying style that invites the viewer to look beyond instant impressions and delve deeper into the bigger picture. It reminds me of the sort of work that might have been architects plans for a Wren or Hook masterpiece – a modern interpretation of 17th Century perspective work, and he’s at his best when he’s drawing buildings of that period. The staggering thing is that much of his work is a sort of aerial view – and completely believable. How does he do that?

Peter Kent’s work can be found everywhere – from his monthly ‘column’ in The Guide (utterly fascinating, whatever subject he chooses; definitely the best bit about that particular magazine) through the somewhat optimistic visions of the East Greenwich Traders Association’s website to a commemorative fan for The Fan Museum.

Without a doubt my favourite picture by him is the giant overview of Greenwich residing in the Pepys Centre – just over by the suit of armour and that amazing B&W photograph of the Placentia excavations. I can happily stand for hours in front of it, immersing myself into the detail – the little extras that you don’t notice on a first, second or even third look. I’m not the only one. I often have to queue to get my Kent-fix at that fantastic, laminated vision. There are several posters of Peter Kent views available in the shop (some of them are on special offer just now) but that giant picture is not available – which is, IMHO, a missed opportunity. I’d have that on my wall in a trice, though of course I’d have to get rid of my current Athena poster of a backlit Chris Roberts in a tennis outfit adjusting his knickers…

But back to Peter Kent. I mentioned earlier I can find virutally nothing about him as as a human being, but I have found a tiny snippet on the website of a local gallery I hadn’t even heard of. Sea Pictures Gallery is in Vanbrugh Park and specialises, unsurprisingly, in seascapes. There are four Peter Kent originals on the site (I guess they might have more) priced between £250 and £450, though only one has a nod to Greenwich – a Thamescape of river traffic – the rest show views of Richmond, Milwall and Henley. For me, it’s slightly odd to see pictures in Kent’s style that aren’t actually of this area, but it just goes to prove, I guess, that he isn’t just a local artist for local people…

It was on the Sea Pictures website that I found the only mention of Peter Kent the man. He has had a Greenwich studio on the Thames for the past 15 years, and has illustrated many books on river churches, The City of London – and, of course, Greenwich. He also takes on commissions from major companies, though sadly Phantom Incorporated probably won’t manage any Peter Kent illustrations for this website yet…

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