In some ways, Jane Peterson is an artist that time forgot.
Her work is enjoying a resurgence now, with its first museum show in 45 years on display at the Columbia Museum of Art through Sunday, July 22.
Considered by many to be one of America’s most innovative artists, Peterson’s was quite popular during the early to mid-1900s. In 1938, the American Historical Society named her its Most Outstanding Individual of the Year.
Peterson died in 1965, a few months shy of her 89th birthday. By then, debilitating arthritis prevented her from painting as much as she once did.
“Jane Peterson enjoyed an enviable popularity in her lifetime, fell into obscurity, and is now being fully reassessed in the light of this visually rich retrospective,” says Will South, chief curator at the Columbia Museum of Art. “This is an exhibition historians need to better understand early 20th-century art, and happily, it is one every visitor can enjoy for its wealth of carefully crafted, exuberantly colored images of a bygone world.”
The exhibition “Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad,” is a retrospective of Peterson’s work. Organized by the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut, the exhibition highlights her long and notable life and career in about 80 paintings, photographs and archival materials.
“This is an exhibition that our visitors can appreciate on many levels,” says Della Watkins, CMA executive director. “It’s an exciting opportunity to see how an artist grew and changed throughout her career, it gives us a window into a tumultuous time in art and world history, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”
“At Home and Abroad” displays the range of subjects and styles Peterson produced. She recorded her numerous travels abroad, first to England, Spain, and France, then Italy and Yugoslavia before heading to Egypt and Turkey.
Her home cities of New York, Palm Beach, Florida, and Gloucester, Massachusetts, were important to her work, as were pictures of women, usually in quiet reverie or at the dressing table.
Floral still life and lush gardens also make up a significant part of her canon.
“Jane Peterson was fiercely independent, highly adventurous, and remarkably talented,” says South. “She never allowed the societally imposed constraints of her gender to stifle her considerable ambitions.”
Peterson explored the innovative painting techniques of the early 20th century. She trained with other renowned artists of her time — with Arthur Wesley Dow at New York’s prestigious Pratt Institute, with Joaquin Sorolla in Madrid, with Frank Brangwyn in Venice and London, and with Jacques Blanche and Andre L’Hote in Paris. In Paris, she befriended Gertrude and Leo Stein and frequented their famous salons.
Her style moved from Impressionism to Fauvism, from Realism to Modernist Abstraction. The variety of works in the exhibition demonstrates not only Peterson’s physical journeys, but her artistic one as well.
If you go
"Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad"
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through Sunday, July 22.
WHERE: Columbia Museum of Art, 1515 Main St.
COST: Free with admission or membership.
WORTH NOTING: Guided tours of the “Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad” exhibit will be 1 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Members’ Opening Reception for “Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17.
COST: $25. Cash bar available.
Lecture: “Jane Peterson: At Home and Abroad”
WHEN: Noon Friday, May 18.
COST: Free with membership or admission.
WORTH NOTING: Chief curator Will South offers valuable insight on this artist and the importance of her work being exhibited in a museum again after 45 years.