Jane Peterson

About the Artist

Jane Peterson was one of the most intriguing artists of the twentieth century, with a unique style that combined both Impressionism and Expressionism.

Jane Peterson sketching on the beach
Jane Peterson Papers, 1907-1981, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Early Life and Education

Jane Peterson was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1876. She was named Jennie, but changed it to Jane when she graduated from high school.

Her father worked for the Elgin Watch company and her mother was a homemaker.

Peterson showed an aptitude for painting as a child but had no formal training. It was when she attended the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago that she learned about the newly established Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She applied to Pratt, passed an aptitude test, was admitted and graduated in 1901. She then went on to study painting at the Art Students League.

Many American artists traveled to Europe to study during the early twentieth century, and Peterson did the same. Not many single women made solo trips abroad, but Peterson did, where she not only studied under some remarkable teachers, but also became part of the Gertrude and Leo Stein salon. It was there that she met artists, like Picasso, who were on the cutting edge of modernism.

In 1908, Peterson had a very successful solo exhibition at the Société des Artistes Français in Paris and another successful solo exhibit in Boston the following year.


During one of her trips to Europe, Peterson studied with Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida in Madrid. Sorolla helped her to mature as an artist, incorporating bold color and strokes in her work. He also mentored her and introduced her to Louis Comfort Tiffany, the founder of the Tiffany & Co., who invited Peterson to attend social events with other artists at his summer estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island.

Jane Peterson
Still Life with Tulips, c. 1925–30
Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Photo credit: Kevin Montague

Tiffany remained a friend and mentor to Peterson and they often traveled together, although she traveled alone to Egypt and Algiers, a daring move for a woman at the turn of the century.

Jane Peterson
Reading at a Cafe, c.1920.

Peterson taught at the Art Students League and became the Drawing Supervisor of the Brooklyn Public School system.

She continued to travel and paint, making trips alone and in the company of Louis Comfort Tiffany. She had a solo exhibit every year of her career, through the 1950s.

An announcement of Peterson’s wedding appeared on page 21 of The New York Times on March 20, 1925:

Miss Jane Peterson, Artist, the Bride Of M. Bernard Philipp, Retired Lawyer

M. Bernard Philipp, a retired lawyer, and Miss Jane Peterson, one of the foremost women painters in New York, were married on Wednesday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. 122 West Sixty-ninth Street, it became known yesterday. Mr. Philipp is more than 60 years of age and his bride is some years his junior.

Peterson was 50 years old when she married for the first time. Her husband had a summer home in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where Peterson painted many boating scenes along the coast.

Jane Peterson
Sailboat in Gloucester Harbor
20 x 22 inches
Signed: Jane Peterson (l.r.)
For sale at Surovek Gallery

The marriage lasted for ten years, and ended with the death of Philipps. Peterson married again four years later, but that marriage lasted less than a year.

Peterson spent the last five years of her life with her niece in Kansas, until her death on August 14, 1965, at the age of 89.


Jane Peterson’s works are part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshorn Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Norton Museum of Art and many more.


2021-05-28T09:55:16-04:00 August 15th, 2016|

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