My heart is filled with joy when I walk into a client’s home and see a work of art by Jane Peterson (1876-1965). It has been my privilege to appraise quite a few of her pieces over the years. Every time I work with her art, I fall more deeply in love. Her artwork is characterized by dazzling color, strong outlines and beautifully structured compositions. The subject matter runs the gamut of Venetian canal scenes, street scenes from Algeria, Egypt and Turkey, New England beach and marine scenes and lush floral and garden paintings.
The Early Years
Jane’s artistic journey began in 1893 when she took an artistic aptitude test at the Art Institute of Chicago. The test clearly revealed her artistic talent, and she was accepted at Pratt Institute. With $300 borrowed from her mother, Jane moved from Elgin, Illinois to New York to study art. Think of the courage and determination it took for a single woman of 19 to move to New York city in 1895. While studying at Pratt, Jane taught painting lessons to other students. She graduated in 1901 and quickly found work as a drawing instructor in the Brooklyn public schools. Over the next few years, she held several different teaching positions which took her to Boston and Michigan.
The Turning Point
The turning point in her career came in 1907, Peterson was friends with Henry Snell, a fellow art instructor and his wife, Florence who was also an artist. They invited Jane to be part of an organized art trip to Europe that summer. She traveled to the Cornish coast of England, Holland, Northern Italy and Venice. This was the beginning of Peterson’s love affair with world travel. She went on to study in Paris and lived around the corner from Gertrude and Leo Stein. The Stein’s were known for their famous cultural salon parties which Peterson occasionally attended. There, she met artists the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Leger and Cezanne. In addition to Paris, Peterson studied in Venice, London and Madrid. It was during this time period that her work began to take on her dazzling color palette and bold patterns.
In 1909 Peterson had her first solo exhibition in the United States at St. Botolph Club in Boston. She received a positive review in the Christian Science Monitor which marked the beginning of a busy career. In 1912, she traveled to Paris and painted. 1914 was marked by an invitation to paint at Laurelton Hall, Tiffany’s Long Island Estate and a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. 1915 found her painting in the American Southwest. In 1916, she traveled with Louis Comfort Tiffany in his private railcar on a painting expedition to the Canadian Northwest and Alaska. In addition, she traveled to the art colonies of New England (Ogunquit, Gloucester, Newport, Provincetown). During this time, she taught at the Art Student’s League in New York and returned to Europe almost every year to paint.
Her Broad Ranging Subject Matter
Peterson’s voracious appetite for travel resulted in a broad range of subject matter in her paintings: New York and New England street scenes, harbor scenes of Cape Ann, swaying green palm trees in Florida, street scenes from Paris, Istanbul and Egypt, vibrant scenes of boats in the Venice canal, slice of life paintings and lush, saturated floral subjects.
Jane Peterson’s artwork can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama and the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN to name a few.
The record high price for one of her paintings was achieved in 2006. It is a large oil on canvas of Gloucester Harbor that sold for $520,000. The good news is that occasionally a small floral still life or a watercolor and gouache scene will sell at a small auction house for as little as $2500. In addition, her work can occasionally be found at galleries as seen in the image of Roses and Candlesticks which is being offered in our local marketplace!