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The current exhibit at Morven Museum and Garden is like three exhibits in one.

In the opening rooms you are introduced to New Jersey artist John F. Peto (1854-1907), a leader in the trompe l’oeil genre. Text panels and numerous vintage photographs offer solid background on Peto’s early life, his development as an artist working in his studios in Philadelphia, his marriage and family life, and his eventual move to Island Heights, NJ. You not only get to see several of his still life paintings, but also many of the actual objects that appear in them.

From there you move into a gallery where works by contemporary painters who have exhibited in the John F. Peto Studio Museum in Island Heights, NJ are displayed.

In the final gallery you will see a portion of a 50-year retrospective exhibition of paintings by New Jersey’s most well-known contemporary trompe l’oeil artist, Gary Erbe of Nutley.

Early in the exhibit you’ll see Peto’s painting “The Ocean County Democrat, 1889” in which Peto painted a copy of a small photograph of the newspaper’s editor and placed it behind a folded copy of the newspaper matching the font exactly. The newspaper later praised the painting saying, in part, “The work is done so deftly and with such regard for the truth and for and all the conditions of realistic art, that the most acute observer is deceived.” The painting is displayed by courtesy of New Jersey State Museum Collection.

Among the objects that appear in his paintings that are on display are a brass stewing kettle, a candlestick, a gravy boat, his bugle and a tattered umbrella.