John Peto images and biography
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John Peto

See also: American Art


Peto, John Frederick - American painter. He specialized in still life. Peto was born in Philadelphia, son of a dealer in picture frames. In 1877 he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and exhibited at the Academy and the St. Louis Exposition (1881). After his marriage in 1887, he built a new home at the coastal resort of Island Heights, New Jersey, and became a professional cornet player. He sold paintings to local shopkeepers and summer visitors to the town, but never exhibited anywhere beyond the local drugstore. His work was virtually unknown until rediscovered by the critic Alfred Frankenstein in 1947.

Peto was a friend of William Harnett, and his still lifes are superficially similar to Harnett's representations of a patron's noticeboard or desktop. However, the brushwork is softer and more fluid, the light more diffuse, and the selected objects tend to be worn or broken. Depicting old letters, fading photographs and torn business cards pinned to a splintering shelf with the paint curling off the wall behind them, Peto's paintings treat the discarded junk of modern life with a hauntingly elegiac quality.

- From The Bulfinch Guide to Art History

Further reading on John Frederick Peto:

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John Frederick Peto Images

1879 Office Board for the Smith Bros. Coal Co.
1882 Rack Picture for William Malcolm Bunn
1885 The Poor Man's Store
1895 For the Track
1895 For the Track (detail)

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