Petrus van Schendel was born in Terheyden near Breda, and died in Brussels. He studied at the Academy of Antwerp under van Bree and worked there from around 1822 to 1828, exhibiting at the same time. After his extensive travels, he lived in Amsterdam between 1830 and 1832, followed by six years in Rotterdam and The Hague from 1838 before finally settling in Brussels around 1845. Schendel was a Member of the Academy of Amsterdam, and of ‘Arti Sacrum’ in Rotterdam. He was a prolific artist, exhibiting at salons in Amsterdam, Antwerp and The Hague between 1827 and 1867. Exhibitions at the Salon in Brussels, Ghent and also at the Royal Academy in London followed. He was awarded medals at most of these exhibitions including a gold medal from the Brussels Exhibition 1845.
He began his career as a genre and portrait painter and engraver, painting historical and biblical subjects. It was not long, however, before he developed the style that was to make him one of the most popular romantic painters of his time. Following his move to Brussels, van Schendel began to paint nocturnal scenes of town centres and particularly night markets, lit dramatically by candle and moonlight. Named Monsieur Chandelle by the French, he achieved almost instant success, winning a gold medal in the Brussels exhibition of 1845, and exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1855 and 1856. Van Schendel’s work owes much to the 17th-century tradition of Dutch candlelit paintings, with an emphasis on chiaroscuro, and carefully-observed still life elements.
His work can now be seen in the museums of Kortrijk, Leper, Amiens, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Groningen, Hannover, Leipzig, Melbourne, Montreal, Munich, Nice, Rotterdam and Stuttgart.