A Closet Door
Oil on canvas
40 1/4 x 30 1/8 in.
signed, u.l.: John F Peto [as a compositional device]
[see file for old label information]
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
A letter rack, which held notes, cards, and other mementos, was a highly personal subject for trompe l’oeil painters that effectively served as a complex “portrait” of a patron or even the artist himself. This example by Peto seems less than humorous and offers a glimpse into the reserved painter’s private world. Age, decay, and collapse are the common strains running through this odd collection of objects, perhaps reflecting Peto’s own exhaustion as he slowly succumbed to painful kidney disease.
What is a still life?
What draws artists and audiences to hyperrealistic works of art?
What choices does an artist make when creating a still life?
What can the objects chosen for a still life tell us about the artist, patron, or time in which they were created?
Have students look at the objects in this painting and write a description of the person who collected them. For example, what does the collector do for a living? What does he or she do for fun? How old is the collector?
Have students imagine this is their closet door and they have collected all of these objects. Students will write a journal entry describing their collection and why these objects are important. Be sure to have students describe the door where the collection is displayed.
Students will design their own closet door in a manner similar to Peto. Have students think about the door they will use; what type of door is it? (Students may add any elements they deem necessary to give their door a realistic appearance, I.e., locks, handles, texture of the material.) Students can consider selecting objects that answer the following questions:
- Where are you from?
- Do you have a favorite book, or a book that you are reading now?
- Who is an important figure in your life, someone you admire?
- Is there something that you used to love but have now outgrown? Perhaps a trace of it remains.
- If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Don’t forget to have students add their name somewhere on the door.
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