Published: August 1, 2000
SAN DIEGO, CALIF. – Hidden from public view for nearly a century, an important still life painting by American artist John Frederick Peto was unveiled at the Timken Museum of Art on July 20.
“In the Library,” a large oil painting depicting a disorderly arrangement of well-worn volumes on a draped table, has been in the possession of a Philadelphia family for four generations, perhaps since its completion, according to John Petersen, executive director of the Timken.
“Painted at the close of the Nineteenth Century and ‘rediscovered’ at the beginning of a new millennium, it is a great, practically unknown work and an extraordinary addition to our museum,” Petersen said.
The Timken’s first acquisition of American work in 13 years, the painting was brought to the museum’s attention by Michael Quick, advisor to the Timken’s acquisitions committee and former curator of American art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“In terms of its scale, impact, seriousness and abstract purity, all preserved in pristine, original condition, In the Library stands as one of the masterpieces by John F. Peto and of American still life painting as a whole,” Quick said.
“We’ve had nothing of this caliber by Peto for two decades, and Peto is one of our specialties,” said Martha Fleischman, whose Kennedy Galleries in Manhattan received the painting from its original owners and handled the transaction with the Timken.
For many decades, Peto’s work was often mistaken for that of another still life painter who achieved a wider following, William Michael Harnett. Scholarly research begun in the 1950s has lifted Peto’s name and work from obscurity, and today he is recognized as one of America’s most important still life painters of the Nineteenth Century.
The Timken Museum of Art, located on the Prado in San Diego’s Balboa Park, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 pm. Last admission is at 4:15 pm and admission is always free.
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