John F. Peto: Catalogue of the Exhibition with a Critical Biography by Alfred Frankenstein

John F. Peto: Catalogue of the Exhibition with a Critical Biography by Alfred Frankenstein

John F. Peto: Catalogue of the Exhibition with a Critical Biography by Alfred Frankenstein

John F. Peto: Catalogue of the Exhibition with a Critical Biography by Alfred Frankenstein

Excerpt

In the gradual rediscovery of American painting of the past, a lively interest in early portraits long preceded the serious reinvestigation of the native landscape and genre schools. Still life, as represented by Harnett, Haberle, Goodwin and others, has waited longest for modern recognition. That recognition, when it finally came some fifteen years ago, centered around the figure of William M. Harnett, who was in the last quarter of the 19th century the chef d'école. Because he was the leader and brought in his lifetime the highest prices, his signature had been forged on many paintings by other men. Curiously enough, before scholarly discrimination in the study of the work of this group finally developed, another sort of discrimination, the connoisseur's flair for quality, had led many collectors of taste to acquire, as the work of Harnett, paintings which expert examination has later revealed to have been done by Peto. By the taste of the mid-20th century, if not necessarily more absolutely, it would therefore seem that Peto has been adjudged at least the equal and perhaps the more appealing master.

Of the two Petos owned by the Smith College and Brooklyn Museums, Smith's was bought as a Harnett; Brooklyn's, purchased more recently, was known to be a Peto, since it came from a source which made confusion as to its attribution impossible. In all, nine pictures in the present exhibition retain forged Harnett signatures. The sponsors must express their particular appreciation of the broadmindedness of the owners who are allowing them to be shown as Petos.

The present exhibition is not particularly concerned with further study of the Harnett-Peto relationship. This problem has already been largely solved in Mr. Alfred Frankenstein's detailed article in the Art Bulletin (March, 1949) with its fascinating account of the author's artistic detective work. The main purpose of this exhibition is to present the work of Peto . . .

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