On a recent flea market foray at Veteran's Stadium in Long Beach, my Bostonian husband and I came across vendor, Becky Newmann selling painted cabinet panels by the colorful Cape Cod folk artist, Peter Hunt.
Like so many found, vintage items, the connection was immediate and personal. We loved the folksy, naive style, bright colors -even the Bay State connection. Despite significant weathering and the fact they were only pieces of a cabinet -we knew they'd find a happy home on Lime Avenue.
The panels are strung with picture hanging wire across the back, and we will most likely hang them over the white bureau (as pictured) in the dining room.
Reading up on the artist we discovered his life was as colorful as his work, and equally embellished. The dramatic Hunt was a self-made celebrity, artist and reportedly, "relentless", entrepreneur.
Cape Cod lore recounts that Hunt's arrival occurred while sharing a yacht with jazz-age celebs, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Stormy weather forced the style-setting crew to take safe harbor in Provincetown where Hunt biographer, Lynn Van Dine describes Hunt's coming ashore as follows: "Wearing a sweeping black cape and a black broad-rimmed hat, holding the leashes of his playful afghan hounds while a red-headed dwarf scurried behind, Hunt reportedly strolled the streets of the village and declared, This is a wonderful place. I must stay here." And so, he did.
Described as a friend of the artistic, the wealthy and the oddball, he became a fixture in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod from the 1920s to the 1960s and established a collection of art and furniture shops which became known as, "Peasant Village".
From the 1930's through the 40's, the artist and his work became the toast of society's summering glitterati charming the rich (James Keating of Chicago), the famous (beauty baron, Helena Rubenstein) and the infamous (opera star & scandal queen, Ganna Walska) with whimsy and personality.
World War II sobered the nation. Hunt changed tact and wrote booklets advising folks to recycle and reinvent their existing furniture with decorative paint. His books and new personna as DIY guru and author were a huge success -helped along by Life Magazine, House Beautiful and Mademoiselle Magazine who published photos and feature stories about Hunt and his decorating techniques.
In 1959, Hunt left Provincetown for Orleans (also on the Cape) where he established Peacock Alley, selling antiques, art and his own peasant-decorated furniture. He lived in Orleans, experimenting with a range of arts and crafts, until 1967 when his dreams must have finally outstripped his reality, and he died in his sleep.
On Lime Avenue, however, his memory and his work (even slightly weathered) will live on...perhaps inspiring us to throw a few more cocktail parties...I think Hunt would have wanted it that way.