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John Frederick Peto's Take Your Choice

John Frederick Peto (1854-1907), Take Your Choice, 1885, oil on canvas, John Wilmerding Collection

Today, John Frederick Peto is recognized as one of America's most important still-life painters. The mystery and solemnity of his library compositions result not only from the rich palettes and the somber, suggestive lighting of these works, but also from the implied histories of the worn and torn objects that are presented. While the battered volumes reflect human struggle, they also suggest the triumph of creativity. As John Wilmerding has written, "Peto's books stand as embodiments of culture as diverse as the shapes and colors of the volumes themselves. For him books were more than inert things lying around tables or shelves; they were unexpected but accessible incarnations of art."

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