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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Photography by Dwight Primiano.

Old Companions

Artist: John Frederick Peto (1854 - 1907)
Date: 1904
22 × 30 in. (55.9 × 76.2 cm)
Framed: 32 in. × 38 1/2 in. × 3 in.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2006.66
Signed: u.r., in brown paint: J F Peto / 190[4 indistinct]
On View
Accession Number: 2006.66
ProvenanceEstate of the Artist, 1907; to Helen Peto Smiley [1893-1978] (his daughter), Island Heights, NJ; (Sally Turner Gallery, Plainfield, NJ), 1966; J. William Middendorf II [b. 1924] and Isabelle Paine Middendorf, New York, NY; (Sotheby's Park Bernet, New York, NY), April 19-20, 1972, sale no. 3348, lot: no. 55; to (Meredith Long & Company, Houston, TX), 1972; Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr., 1973; Private Collection; to (Sotheby's Inc., New York, NY), 2006; purchased by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, 2006
Label TextPeto completed Old Companions just three years before his death, and it summarizes his artistic concerns as a trompe l’oeil (a French term meaning “to fool the eye”) still-life painter. The work includes many of his favorite subjects: the pipe, candlestick, quill pen, inkstand, and books all appear in other paintings. Peto’s images often have a melancholy quality, and the objects depicted here are worn from heavy use or are in disrepair. The candlestick and several of the books, including one whose cover hangs from a single binding thread, are all placed precariously, as if to suggest the impermanence of life and human creation.

Although Peto achieved early acclaim in Philadelphia, he did not find lasting success. In 1889 he moved to Island Heights, New Jersey, where he played the coronet at religious revival meetings to earn money and occasionally sold paintings to tourists.