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Rediscovering the Hidden Meanings in Peto’s Art and Photography

February 9, 2019 - May 12, 2019

February 9, 2019 – May 12, 2019

The John F. Peto Studio Museum is pleased to present Rediscovering the Hidden Meanings in Peto’s Art and Photography. This riveting exhibit will feature early photographic works from the collections of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art (Washington, D.C.), Brandywine River Museum of Art (Chadds Ford, PA), Hagley Museum and Library (Wilmington, DE), Library Company of Philadelphia, the Ocean County Historical Society (Toms River, NJ) and the John F. Peto Studio Museum. More than 85 photographs will be on display, showcasing the work of John F. Peto, William H. Bell, William H. Rau and Louise Bell Rau. Peto’s personal artifacts and letters will round out the exhibition.

Peto’s interest in photography and fascination with the camera was likely sparked by the work of his uncle, William H. Bell (1830-1910) who was married to Peto’s maternal aunt. Mr. Bell was best known for his photographs of the western territories during the United States government survey expedition of 1872. Mr. Peto rented studio space on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, where Mr. Bell’s son-in-law, William Rau (1855-1920), had a photography studio.

A constant theme in Peto’s life is his devotion to family. He took many photos of both his own family and his wife’s family in his studios in Philadelphia and Island Heights. John Wilmerding wrote in his book, Important Information Inside, “Whether or not directly inspired by Bell, [Peto’s] photographic experience may well have contributed to the sense of astutely arranged still-life subjects in his subsequent paintings.” A particularly exciting highlight of the exhibit is the return of Peto’s personal camera to the permanent collection of the Museum.


February 9, 2019
May 12, 2019
Event Category:


The John F. Peto Studio Museum