B.S. Long: P. La Cave, Landscape Painter, Walker's Quarterly, July, 1922; F. Paul: Peter La Cave, Apollo, December, 1947; I.A. Williams, Early English Watercolours, 1952; M. Hardier, Watercolour Painting in Britain, 1968.
Peter La Cave belongs to a group of watercolourists who specialised in rustic land-scape views. The principal figures all of whom also painted in oils, are George Morland, James Ward, Julius Caesar Ibbetson, Francis Wheatley and Philip de Loutherbourg.
Very little is known about Peter La Cave (or Le Cave) though he was a prolific artist whose watercolour groups of peasants, horses, cattle and so forth are among the first things the collector is likely to come across. His name is obviously French, and since he is recorded by Ibbetson to have understood Dutch, it is plausible to connect him with a family of Dutch artists of the name who were of French extraction. He was working in England at least from 1789 to 1816, and exhibited two Devonshire views at the Royal Academy in 1801.
Like several eighteenth century watercolourists such as Francis Nicholson, William Payne and John Laporte, La Cave established himself as a professional drawing master whose tuition was widely sought. The strength, clarity and directness of his style would seem attractive to pupils. La Cave occasionally painted in oils, but the great bulk of his work is in watercolour or more rarely in pencil, often revealing the influence of Dutch seventeenth century masters such as Nicolas Berchem.
His animal and figure group have a sensitive line recalling Ibbetson, with whom it is known he was associated.
A memorable point in connection with La Cave is that he had a direct influence upon Cotman. Dawson Turner, Cotman's patron, had a large collection of La Cave's drawings, for at the sale of his library one of the items in the catalogue reads: 'La Cave. A collection of two hundred and eighty sketches of this artist, consisting of Landscapes, Figures, Animals, etc. , in which his touch was particularly flowing, rich and beautiful. Very little is known of this artist, who excelled in depicting the Cow, an animal which in this collection is figured in every possible way.' Cotman borrowed from Dawson Turner, and made tracings of several of the drawings of cows, and the Cotman cow, a familiar object in his drawings, was derived from his study of La Cave. In 1804, Cotman wrote to Dawson Turner: 'Oh, to be looking at some of your La Cave Sketches.'