Jane Peterson

Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Elgin, IL
Death Date: 
Elgin, IL
New York City
Active In: 
Solo, Paintings by Jane Peterson, AIC, 1910
Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Women Artists for the Benefit of the Woman Suffrage Campaign 1915
Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco (CA), 1915
Fox Valley Art Hall of Fame, 2014
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
Jane Peterson 2014 Inductee, Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame

Jane Peterson (1876-1965) was born in Elgin, Illinois, the daughter of an Elgin Watch Company employee, and started her life as Jennie Christine. She changed her name to Jane shortly after high school graduation in 1894.

While still a girl, her natural gift for art became apparent. With a $300 loan, she traveled to New York and enrolled in the art department of Pratt Institute. Her art matured rapidly, and with the proceeds from sales, she was able to pay back that $300 her first year. After graduation from Pratt in 1901, she pursued art until arthritis in both hands ended her ability to paint in the mid-1950s.

Jane was an art instructor at schools and academies in Elmira, New York, the Maryland Institute in Baltimore, and the Brooklyn Art Students League. She was the Public Schools Drawing Supervisor in Boston.

Jane had the good fortune to study with prominent European artists. She was especially drawn to the natural beauty of Venice, Chioggia, Italy, and the landscapes of France, Turkey, and Spain. A catalogue from the Art Institute of Chicago lists 87 of Jane Peterson’s oil paintings on exhibit from December 6 to 27, 1910, which were painted during her two-year travels overseas.

The internationally known writer and astronomer, Percival Lowell, sponsored Jane’s first exhibition. She also exhibited at the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco as part of the women’s suffrage exhibit. She traveled with Louis Comfort Tiffany and painted with John Singer Sargent, and became a member of the Allied Artists of America, the American Watercolor Society, the National Association of Women Artists and Sculptors, the New York Society of Painters, and a Fellow at the National Academy of Design.

During the 1920s, when Jane was at the height of her popularity, she married Moritz Bernard Philipp, a man almost 30 years her senior, who died 4 years later. The couple lived in a 5-story home, with a sky-lighted studio on the top floor, located on Fifth Avenue in New York City, across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jane was married again in 1939 to a New Haven doctor, but divorced within a year.

Jane earned first prize in watercolor at the American Exhibition in the Girl’s Club of Paris, France, in 1915, the Noel Flagg memorial prize for best oil painting at the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts exhibition in 1917, the Pettingale Prize for watercolor at the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in 1927, and first prize for best flower picture in the annual exhibition of the Florida Federation of Arts in 1937.

In 1925, the New York Times named Jane Peterson “one of the foremost women painters in New York.” In 1938, she was named the most outstanding individual of the year by the American Historical Society, only the second woman to be so honored.

Although her oils and watercolors covered a wide range of subjects, she is perhaps best known for her paintings of flowers, since she authored an instructional book on the topic entitled Flower Painting in 1946.

One of Jane’s last nationally recognized efforts occurred in 1944, when her portraits of four U.S. servicewomen – a Wac, a Wave, a Spar, and a marine – representing each of the armed forces in which women served during World War II, raised $211,000 in War Bonds for the creation of a permanent memorial. During that period, Jane often accepted War Bonds in lieu of full payment for her artwork.

Her artwork is represented in numerous permanent collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where she was a board member, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts, and locally at the Sears Gallery at Elgin Academy.

Jane Peterson’s art brought her into the company of motion picture actors, design entrepreneurs, and European royalty. Upon her death in 1965, her estate was valued in excess of $1 million. Her art is still highly valued. Her painting, “The Pier at Rocky Point, Gloucester,” was posthumously selected for the July 4, 1980, cover of the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2012, one of her paintings of a canal in Venice sold at auction for more than $130,000.