Jane Peterson, nee Jennie Christine Peterson, was born in Elgin, Illinois in 1876. Her artistic skill was manifest in her youth, and her family encouraged her to apply to the Pratt Institute, a private art college in Brooklyn, New York. While at the Pratt, Peterson studied under the gifted art teacher Arthur Wesley Dow. Peterson graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1901 and then studied oil and watercolor painting under Frank Dumond at the venerable Art Students League, becoming an accomplished American Impressionist.
After finishing her education in New York, Peterson embarked on the well-worn path of many an American artist seeking to finish his/her education: she travelled to Europe. She studied with Frank Brangwyn in Venice and London, Joaquin Sorolla in Madrid, and Jacques Blanche and Andre L’Hote in Paris. While in Paris, Peterson became friends with Gertrude and Leo Stein and was, through them, initiated into France’s avant-garde. It was during this period that she became acquainted with the early stirrings of Expressionism and Fauvism. She also began to question the orthodoxies of conventional Impressionism.
After returning from her first tour of the Continent, Peterson began to exhibit widely and became an artist of national standing. She had two solo exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1910 and 1914 and exhibited in every major juried watercolor and oil exhibitions in the United States between 1910 and 1925. Peterson was well known for her still lifes, harbor scenes, Venetian vignettes, New York subjects, and her exotic renderings of traditional Orientalist subject matter.
Jane Peterson’s popularity was at its zenith between 1910 and 1925 but, even in 1938, the American Historical Society rewarded her with the honorific title of “most outstanding individual of the year.” She was the second woman on which this honor was bestowed.
Jane Peterson’s works are in the hands of a number of prominent institutions, including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and The Princeton University Museum, Princeton, New Jersey.