FRANS XAVER PETTER
1791 – Vienna – 1866
Franz Xaver Petter was born in Vienna, the son of a porcelain decorator, and lived and worked in that city all his life. At the Vienna Academy of Arts he was a student of the flower painters Johann Baptist Drechsler (1756-1811) and Sebastian Wegmayr (1776-1857). In 1814 he was appointed corrector at the Viennese Blumenzeichenschule. In 1832 he took up a position as professor at the Manufaktur Zeichenschule and became academic counsellor and director of this institute in 1835. His son Theodor Petter (1822-1872) also became a flower painter. Petter worked in the Biedermeier period during which, particularly in the German-speaking countries, genre painting was the most popular subject, with Georg Ferdinand Waldmüller as its most important exponent. Such works were executed in great detail with substantial refinement, while their narrative subjects tended towards a certain sentimentality. The tendency towards refinement and sweetness is also clearly present in flower painting. During the early decades of the nineteenth century a relatively large number of highly skilled flower painters were active in Vienna, Petter and his teachers among them. Many of them also had a relationship of some kind with the Viennese porcelain manufacture. Moreover, there was a great interest in botany in which the botanical illustrators Nicolaus von Jacquin (1727-1817) and his son Joseph Franz played an important role.
While Petter’s teacher Johan Baptist Drechsler improvised particularly on the compositional schemes of floral bouquets by such artists as Jan van Huysum and Rachel Ruysch, Petter’s inspiration appears to have come less directly from one or two specific predecessors. His style is a clever and natural-looking amalgam of a century and a half of European – and particularly Dutch – flower and still-life painting. His refined technique is a worthy rival to that of his examples. Like Drechsler, Franz Xaver Petter often supplemented his arrangements with some fruit on the ledge and in his larger compositions he often included a lively parrot or parakeet.