Home of Little-Known Artist John F. Peto Opens as Island Heights Museum

Home of Little-Known Artist John F. Peto Opens as Island Heights Museum

June 18, 2011

By Laura Martin, Asbury Park Press

Today the average John F. Peto painting sells for between $50,000-$75,000 per piece. Yet the American still-life artist was virtually unknown when he died in 1907.

“He painted for his own pleasure and to pay the bills; he wasn’t trying to be famous,” says Island Heights resident Alice Askoff.

Peto began to gain recognition in the 1940s when it was discovered that many William Harnett paintings — which were more popular and more valuable than Peto’s — were actually Peto paintings that had been forged to appear as Harnett’s pieces, according to Askoff. That revelation skyrocketed Peto’s work, and today it can be found in some of the most respected art institutions in the world.

Still, many of the residents of New Jersey and even Island Heights — a place Peto called home for the last 18 years of his life — aren’t familiar with the painter.

“It is astonishing how many people don’t know who he was,” Askoff says.

Hoping to change that, Askoff, along with a small group of other Island Heights residents, formed a nonprofit organization and opened the The John F. Peto Studio Museum at 102 Cedar Ave., Island Heights, on May 29, after more than three years of planning and restoration.

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