Gouache on board
7 ½ x 10 inches (19 x 25.4 cm)
Dick Mills, a friend of the artist, who purchased it at the auction of the artist’s home and studio contents after her death
Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, New York, circa 1970
Private collection, New York and Westport, Connecticut
Jane Peterson was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1876. Peterson attended the Pratt Institute and later she studied at the Art Students League in New York with Frank Vincent Dumond. Following her studies, Jane Peterson was offered several teaching posts, none of which she would keep long. Instead of confining herself to the American art scene, she decided to continue her education in Paris, Venice, London and Madrid, where she studied with such notable artists as Jacques Emile Blanche, André Lhote, and Joaquin Sorolla. Through her instruction Peterson developed a unique vision in American art. She went on to influence later American Art in a teaching position at the Art Students League beginning in 1913. Her works are a blend of Impressionist and Expressionist styles, combining an interest in light and in depiction of the spontaneous moment with the use of broad swathes of vibrant color. She is well known for her vivid, richly painted still lifes, and beach scenes painted along the Massachusetts coast.
The present work is an excellent example of Peterson’s beach scenes. A group of three sunbathers dominate the foreground at right, bright pink after an afternoon spent in the brilliant sun. Their attenuated frames, painted in flat color, recall the joyful figures of Matisse from the first decade of the century, when Peterson was studying in Europe. Two more figures stroll away behind them, walking along the soft yellow and cream field of sand that occupies almost two-thirds of the composition. In the distance, bands of aqua and blue sea are traversed by white piers and dotted with beach-going figures.
A great ship floats at the line of the horizon, adding to the life and cheerfulness of the scene. The wonderful color and light mood of the work recalls the influence of her teacher Sorolla, but Peterson’s tendency to simplified, almost abstracted forms and flat planes of color gave her a unique interpretation of such scenes and put her in step with modern trends in America.
Peterson was recognized as one of the foremost women painters in the United States. Her works are housed in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC.