John Frederick Peto (1854–1907)
Born and raised in Philadelphia, John Frederick Peto would eventually join America’s lineage of talented trompe l’oeil painters including Raphaelle Peale and William Michael Harnett. Peto studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he met future mentor, Harnett, before 1880. Following Harnett’s realistic and studied portraits of everyday objects, Peto created paintings meant to “trick the eye” in their illusionistic representation of books, letter racks, and the various gathering of items placed there within. For reasons unknown, Peto’s paintings did not draw great attention until after his death and the artist spent his later years in Island Heights, New Jersey where he sold his still life works to tourists and friends. Today his work can be seen at nearly every major museum nationwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.