Updated: Jul 31, 2020
In one of the Jersey Shore's charming Victorian towns sits a restored 19th century house, the John F Peto Studio Museum that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated as a place that inspired America's greatest art. It's the former home and studio of John Frederick Peto, whose works can be seen in major museums such as Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art.
Peto may not be a name that readily comes to mind along side his contemporaries like Thomas Eakins or John Singer Sargent. It wasn't until 1949 that an art scholar revealed that 19 of Peto's paintings in major art collections had been wrongly attributed --- his signature erased -- to his more famous fellow Philadelphia painter William Harnett. In the past half century, Peto has been given his due for his trompe l'oeil still life paintings often of letter racks holding printed matter, shelves of books, tabletops, and doors with hanging musical instruments.
Not having had much success as a painter in Philadelphia, where he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Peto moved to Island Heights and built his house and studio in 1889. About a dozen of his works are in view at the lovingly restored Island Heights house where visitors can see furniture and items of daily life that were painted by Peto that stayed with the home and the Peto family for 115 years.
The museum has recently re-opened for members Saturday and Sunday afternoons as well as for groups and private tours during the week. Memberships are $30 for seniors and students, $50 for individuals and $60 for families.
After visiting the museum, make sure to spend time walking through Island Heights, which has the second largest collection of Victorian homes and buildings in the state.