Monday, March 28, 2022

Jane Peterson's Star on the Rise

 Annamaria on Monday

I first wrote here about Jane Peterson in 2015, both because she was woman adventurist and because she was a much under-appreciated American Impressionist painter.

That first post was discovered by a researcher looking for Peterson's paintings in private hands, hoping to find some to be included in the first Peterson retrospective exhibition in 40 years. As it turned out, the curators took four of the five Peterson's in the collection that my dear-departed husband and I had amassed over many years. When that exhibition opened, I wrote another post in 2017, in which I rejoiced that Jane Peterson was finally beginning to get her to due.

My two pictures, as displayed at the 2017 exhibition, lower left and right

I am delighted to say that painters of the past who were not white men are now, at last, beginning to be appreciated for the artistic value of their work.

Here's a closer look at "Venetian Lagoon" by Jane Peterson

A wonderful example of this trend: the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown, New York is mounting, this coming summer, an exhibition which will include some of the paintings from my collection. Here is what the museum website says about the exhibition:

Unmasking Venice: American Artists and the City of Water

May 28 – September 5, 2022

Unmasking Venice: American Artists and the City of Water features paintings, etchings and 3-dimensional objects that explore the two Venetian worlds depicted by American artists during the late 19th, early 20th and 21st centuries. The “picturesque” demonstrates the attraction to Venice felt by American tourists, while the “realistic” depicts the grittier realism of an everyday Venetian’s life. The exhibition includes work by a diverse group of artists, including Jane Peterson and Fred Wilson, and draws some interesting Venetian connections to the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art through the glass industry. A catalog will accompany the exhibition.


Sponsored in part by The Clark Foundation, Nellie and Robert Gipson, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas O. Putnam.


This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

I was particularly struck by the inclusion of Jane Peterson's name as one of the brags about the works to be shown.  Little by little, Jane is finally garnering well-deserved adulation.

This exhibition will include two of the Petersons that I own, as well as a picture by another wonderful woman artist – Helen Nicolay, who is still under-appreciated, but now will be getting some attention by her inclusion in this show.

Helen Nicolay (1866-1954) was born in Paris, where her father John George Nicolay was the United States Consul. He eventually became Abraham Lincoln's private secretary. After Lincoln's assassination, John Nicolay wrote an exhaustive, 12 – volume biography of Lincoln. Helen served is his secretary in this effort. It is believed that she was heavily involved in drafting the 11th volume because her father became ill. And that she completed his effort by writing the 12th volume largely on her own. Besides being a marvelous painter, she was also an author in her own right. Twenty titles are shown with their cover art on the website dedicated to her history.

She painted many exotic and fascinating places while traveling with her father after Lincoln's death. I have the privilege of owning two. This one of the Aswan souk in Egypt:

My photo of the water color taken "though a glass, darkly."

The one in the exhibit will be, of course, of Venice. Here is "Arcade of the Ducal Palace, Venice by Helen Nicolay:

Photo: Josh Nefsky

I am looking forward to attending the opening reception for the exhibit.  All the more so, now that I have seen an image of the cover for the show's catalogue:

Cover art: "The Clocktower, Venice" by Jane Peterson

It is the only painting in our collection that David bought without first discussing the purchase with me.  He surprised me with it on my 51st Birthday.

Now, one of Jane Person's masterworks is being given a great place of honor - at long last the recognition she so richly deserves.



  1. Wonderful, AmA. While I admire the Jane Peterson works, the two Helen Nicolay works you included really struck my heart. Beautiful!

    1. I am so glad, EvKa! Helen, I think, is largely forgotten. I was actually happy, when I researched her yesterday, to find that her family has a website and an effort to keep her accomplishments known. They called her Aunt Helen! I think I’m going to call her that now, too. She was obviously a renaissance woman at a time when the best she could expect was to be known as her father‘s daughter. In fact, a biography of her is titled “The Secretary’s Secretary.” She was a whole lot more than her father’s secretary!

  2. Thank you very much for this. I knew nothing of Jane Peterson but her paintings (and life!) are fascinating!

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Ovidia! I love to rescue the reputation of underappreciated women of the past.

  3. You and David acquired a wonderful collection! Bravo on the recognition now being achieved by Jane Peterson and Helen Nicolay. Can't wait to see them again.

  4. You know, Bro, that visits to the collection come with dinner for you and Barbara! Let’s make a date. Please.

    1. When we finally leave Detention, Sis, you are tops on our list. :)