Big Sky Fine Art

Jane Peterson

1876-1965
American
Still life of fruit, jug, wine bottle and glass
Signed bas droite
Oil on Canvas
75cm x 49cm

Asking price: £6,995.00
Currently not on display

Jane Peterson was one of America’s most innovative artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and a remarkable woman who challenged the conventions of the time and lived a life of independence and adventure. She travelled extensively throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as her native America. Her work, from landscapes to still life, blends traditional approaches to painting with the vanguard art of the Impressionists, Post- Impressionists, Expressionists and Fauves. She achieved significant critical attention and adulation over the course of her career. She spent her life immersed in the practice of painting, as a student, teacher and gifted artist. She was very famous during her lifetime and her influence has reached far beyond that.

Jennie Christine Peterson was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1876. She later adopted the name Jane and officially changed her name in 1909. She attended public school and showed an early aptitude for drawing. With the encouragement and support of her family she was accepted at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York. There she studied from 1895-1901, under Arthur Wesley Dow. Her family was not affluent and she financed her studies by giving drawing lessons to other students and undertaking private commissions.

After graduating from the Pratt Institute Jane became the Supervisor of Drawing for the Public Schools in Brooklyn.

In 1907 she toured Europe, taking in the artists’ colonies of the Cornish coast, Volendam in Holland and Lake Como, Italy. She worked in London, with Frank Brangwyn and later in Paris where she became friends with Gertrude and Leo Stein and became part of the circle that included Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Henri Matisse.

She held a solo exhibition in 1908 at the Societe des Artists Fraincais, which led to another at the St. Botolph Club in Boston, U.S., early in 1909. Later that year she studied in Madrid with the great Spanish Impressionist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida. Through her connections with Sorolla she became part of the fashionable art set of New York and spent the summer months at Sorolla’s estate on Long Island and had the use of Louis Tiffany’s private railway car for some of her painting journeys.

She then travelled to Egypt and Algiers before exhibiting the large body of work completed there in a major exhibition in Chicago in 1910. She went on to have two solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1910 and 1914.

During World War One Jane Peterson painted war –oriented subjects for the benefit of Liberty Loans and the Red Cross.

In 1912 she travelled again to Paris and started to use watercolour as her preferred medium. When she returned to America in 1913 she began a six-year period as an Instructor in watercolour painting at the Art Student’s League, New York, 1914-1919. She was also a member of the prestigious National Academy of Design, New York.

In 1916 Jane Peterson was part of an artists’ expedition to Alaska and the Canadian North West.

In 1924 she spent six months in Tuscany, but after this her foreign travels were curtailed because of her marriage in 1925 to Moritz Phillip, a lawyer and art patron twenty-five years her senior. Thereafter he summers were spent in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and she began to turn to flower painting instead. She did not consider this a limitation at all and remained fascinated by the inherent beauty of flowers and gardens for the rest of her life.

In 1938 the American Historical Society named Peterson as the “most outstanding individual of the year”. She was only the second woman to be so honoured.

After her husband’s death Peterson resumed her studies and travels abroad. In 1939 she married her second husband, James S. McCarthy, a prominent New Haven physician, but this was not a happy union and they separated within a year and then divorced.

Her later works were dominated by floral pictures and her last solo show was held in 1946 although she continued to exhibit widely throughout her long career. She continued to paint, albeit more slowly as arthritis set in, until well into her eighties. She spent the last five years of her life with her niece in Kansas, who took care of her until her death on 4.8.1965.


The extensive travel that Jane undertook was unusual for her time; especially for a woman. Through her tours she viewed many specific works of art, and learnt from some of the leading lights of her generation, gaining a diverse and expert knowledge of painting techniques and composition. As an artist she earned acclaim in an era when women were seldom encouraged to join such a profession.

The style of Jane Peterson’s work defies tight classification.; her works contain elements of the various schools she formally studied and discovered through her individual exploration. Whilst she distinguished herself as an original artist the influence of Fauvism, Impressionism and the Cubist movement all resonate within her works. At the height of her career her style has been described as “brightly hued Post Impressionism”. She was certainly considered one of the most important American artists of her day, with her paintings considered major contributors to the American Expressionist movement.

Jane Peterson left an extensive body of work, including coastal and landscape scenes, oriental subjects, street scenes from towns all over the world, New York subjects and some very fine still life, especially her beloved flowers. Her work was exhibited in practically all the major art galleries in America during her lifetime and is today held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Princetown University Museum as well as many public and private collections.