JOHN FREDERICK PETO
"STILL-LIFE WITH SALT-GLAZED MUG, BOOK, PIPE AND MATCH"
Signed 'J.F. Peto' upper left, oil on artist's board
6 x 9 in. (15.2 x 22.9cm)
Executed in the 1880s.
Howard Keyser, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco, California.
Acquired directly from the above in 1971.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York.
Acquired directly from the above in 1975.
Craig & Tarlton Gallery, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Collection of Charles Lee Smith III, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Collection of Robert P. Coggins, Marietta, Georgia.
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired directly from the above in 1983.
Private Collection, New York.
Christie's, New York, sale of December 5, 2013, lot 163.
Acquired directly from the above sale.
Private Collection, Pennsylvania.
"American Still Lifes of the Nineteenth Century," Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, December 1-31, 1971, no. 35.
American Still Lifes of the Nineteenth Century, an exhibition catalogue, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, 1971, p. 27, no. 35 (illustrated).
J. Wilmerding, Important Information Inside: The Art of John F. Peto and the Idea of Still-Life Painting in Nineteenth-Century America, Washington, D.C., 1983, fig. 40, pp. 62-63 (illustrated).
Painting in the tradition of fellow artists Charles Willson Peale and his son Raphaelle, John Haberle and William Harnett (the latter with whom he was closely associated) Philadelphia born and New Jersey raised John Frederick Peto was a master of trompe l'oeil painting in the second half of the 19th century. Generally working on a small scale, Peto presented objects such as salt-glazed mugs, pipes, books, matches (the latter four objects all included in the present painting), pistols, newspapers, oranges, tobacco boxes and letter racks in their true sizes and usually not cut off by the edges of the painting. The present piece, a horizontal arrangement which essentially relies on the pairing of a mug, a pipe and a book, shows the artist's unpretentious concern with pure, almost abstracted, shapes and designs. The objects are arranged in a compact space, encompassed by important shadows which provide an overall sense of depth to the picture. Everything appears to rest in place together, held down as much by the gravity of light as of the group's mass. The painting is part of a series of works both intimate in feeling and small in size, in which, as Thomas Quick points out, "Peto carries the tone of reserve and isolation."
While Peto's paintings were shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the artist had a studio in Philadelphia, he surprisingly never had a gallery exhibition during his lifetime. While closely associated with William Harnett, Peto's work was, for quite a while, less revered. In fact, a group of Peto's paintings were 'discovered' in 1905 bearing false Harnett signatures, though Peto's trompe l'oeil oils are generally characterized by having less defined contours, more prosaic objects, greater focus on the effects of light and a softer atmosphere than Harnett's works.
It is noteworthy that there has been somewhat of a resurgence in interest in this oft-forgotten still life painter, and Still Life with Salt-Glazed Mug, Book, Pipe and Match is a fine addition to the artist's corpus, particularly with its distinguished exhibition history and provenance, having been in the private collection of Mr. Albert Frankenstein, the leading scholar on the work of John F. Peto, for several years.
Sold for $13,750 (buyer's premium included)