"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer


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Friday, February 1, 2013

Folk Art Find: Peter Hunt


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. 
Imperfect perfect!
 
 

 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.
 
  

6 comments :

  1. Hi Bonnie,
    I enjoyed reading your blog post about Peter Hunt. I am a folk artist living on Cape Cod and have loved his happy and colorful artwork for years. I sometimes use his designs to embellish my paintings.
    Not many people remember him or even know anything about him.
    You have wonderful taste and quite a treasure.
    Joan Augustino

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Joan! I really appreciate your comment and your positive feedback! I look forward to checking out your work as well!Maybe I can see your work next time I'm in Boston! All the best to you!

      Delete
  2. Hi Bonnie,

    I also enjoyed your informative and well-crafted piece on Peter Hunt; I bought a Hunt-style salt box today and was searching for similar pieces online when I found your blog. As a folk art enthusiast I was familiar enough with Hunt to recognize his style, but knew very little about his colorful life. You did a great job describing his adventurous career, and I thought the line about his death was poignant and beautifully written!

    Thanks,
    Jeremy Rittenhouse

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Jeremy, thank you so much! I bet your new salt box is terrific -kind of fun to know a little bit of its vibrant history! Sincere thanks as well for your very kind comment, it means a lot! -Bonnie

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have a platter that my grandmother owned, an artist herself. I noticed it was signed Peter Hunt and looked his name up on google. What do you think I could sell the 18" for? It has a picture if a horse and is bordered with his folksy style.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have a platter that my grandmother owned, an artist herself. I noticed it was signed Peter Hunt and looked his name up on google. What do you think I could sell the 18" for? It has a picture if a horse and is bordered with his folksy style.

    ReplyDelete

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