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"The Violin Maker"
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|WILLIAM JACOBUS PETERS |
William (Bill) Jacobus Peters, Artist (Commercial and Fine Art),
Photographer (freehand on photographic and photo coloring), Pencil,
Charcoal Sketches, Oil Paintings, Etchings, Designer and Engraver,
Restorer, was born Jan. 23, 1901 in Murray, Utah to Frederik (Fred) and
Annie (Cannegieter) Peters. They were of Dutch heritage.
Bill's father, who served as Chief of Police of Murray City, and other
civic responsibilities including Mayor, was an interior decorator by
trade. As soon as he was able to wield a brush and pencil his son
Bill was decorating the backs of wallpaper sample books. At the
age of 10 he was washing prints for the J.A. Christensen Photo Studio
located in Murray.
Artistic Ambitions: Five years later the proprietor had assigned all of
his fine retouching to the young artist who showed such proficiency
that he had deferred to the latter's talent. Knowing of his
artistic ambitions he advised, “Learn photography. You can always
rely on it to make a living if fortunes are adverse.” It was
prophetic counsel that paid off during the depression of the thirties.
The young artist was in the second grade when J.F. Russon, art
supervisor, selected him to do a special painting in the hallway of the
Arlington School. In his high school years he did art assignments
on the staff of the yearbook. After graduation he attended the
University of Utah (1919-1920) where he studied drawing and sketching
with Jack Sears, life drawing with Mabel Frazer and painting with
Florence Ware. All were very prominent Utah painters. He
also majored in photography at this time.
Bill’s best boy friend Cliff arranged a blind date between Bill and Ann
a young lady that worked with his girlfriend and a year later on Sept.
8, 1924 they were married.
At the time of their marriage (1924) Bill had purchased the Christensen
Photography Studio in Midvale and later opened the Broadway Studio in
Salt Lake City. It was hard to make a living in Utah in the 20’s
so they moved to Los Angeles, California in about 1926 to further
Bill’s art talent.
Brush and Styles: In 1926 Peters turned to brush and stylus
exclusively, entering the employ of an engraving firm in Los
Angeles. To enhance his opportunities for creative work he took a
position designing and engraving bank notes and stock certificates for
Jeffries Lithograph Co. By the fall of 1929 the demand for
elegantly designed stock certificates had become so great that he had
designed and engraved 52 stock issues just prior to the stock market
crash. During this time he had designed a letter head for
Meto-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation and Gilmore Oil Company. In 1932
he designed the tickets for the 10th Olympic Summer Games in Los
As the Depression wore on, employees were laid off. In the spring
of 1933, Mr. Christensen’s prediction was fulfilled. Bill opened
his own photo studio on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena CA., adding art
commissions to his photographic assignments. The family also
bought a home in Altadena to live. His wife Ann also worked very
hard in the studio doing retouching and coloring prints. During
this time Bill made the acquaintance with the noted painter Ejnar
Hansen for whom he did special photographic work while studying
painting from him. Bill also learned to use the old masters
technique of portrait painting from Lawton Parker a very famous
portrait painter. He was also friends with Seymour Thomas noted
California and Texas painter and Merle Steed an Art Collector whom
later gave his collection to BYU and Springville Art Gallery in Utah.
Civic Life and the Artist: William Peters was very active in the
Pasadena Jr. Chamber of Commerce. In 1935 he was the first
chairman of the committee assigned the task of staging the first Annual
Artist’s Costume Ball and a civic art exhibition. He was also a
Juror at this exhibit. It was the start of a movement that
brought the city of Pasadena a fine arts gallery. He had an
annual custom of making a pencil sketch of the incoming Presidents of
the Jr. Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Jr. Chamber of
Commerce from 1935-1946 and had Honorary Membership in 1939-1940.
The Pasadena people knew him as an outstanding photographer and artist.
Peters has sketched some of the leading figures in Pasadena society,
business and civic life. He photographed and pencil sketched many
of the actors and actresses at the Pasadena Playhouse. A sketch
of Pres. F.D. Roosevelt hung in the main lobby of the Pasadena Post
Office. Another sketch of Roosevelt was sent to the White House.
He was on the art staff and was also their official photographer for
the Penguin Magazine which always published his pencil sketches and
sometimes on the front cover.
For the Fifth Annual Post and Paddock Dinner Dance at the Hotel
Huntington in Pasadena, CA. his artwork was on the menu and program. It
was a reproduction of the original pencil sketch of Seabiscuit and
Heelfly at Santa Anita Race Track.
The Webb School in Claremont, CA had Bill 20 pencil sketches of the
Seniors students and 4 sketch’s of the different school buildings which
was all put in their 1934 yearbook which was named Elespejo.
The Hillcrest Dining Room in Pasadena, CA during Bill’s California
years displayed his paintings. One of their favorites was Old
Mrs. Glover, a portrait done in the old masters style. May 11,
1941 this painting was on the cover of their Mother’s Day Menu.
They thought she looked like the universal idea of Motherhood.
He was a member of the Photographer’s Association of America. In
their Photographic Competition Bill got Certificates of Merit in 1941
(2 merits), 1944 (3 merits) 1945 (5 merits) 1946 (1 merit) 1947 (4
merits). Bill liked to take pictures of people the way they
really were. They were his Character Pictures, messed up hair,
dirty faces, funny hat and etc. If someone walked by his studio
that would make a good subject he would bring them in and take their
Home Again and the Artist Dream: Slightly more than a decade
later in 1946 the artist returned to Murray, Utah to the old family
home where he grew up as a young boy. Quote from the paper.
“One of the most widely acclaimed paintings by Mr. Peters is his
portrayal of the “Old Violin Maker at Work”. He also brought with
him to Utah a painting of a golden haired girl and a cookie jar, that
has excited more than passing interest”.
While living in Murray, Bill and Ann were active in the F.O.E. and
later in 1950 moving to Cottonwood Heights, where they continued to be
active in the Murray F.O.E. and Bill was also active in the Olympic
Male Chorus which he sang Baritone. He did pencil sketches of
about 45 of the members and designed the covers of their programs and
posters. He was also President of the F.O.E. and the Olympic Male
Chorus for a while and liked to give Speeches at Events. He loved
to play the violin which he learned while in Murray High School and
would play it daily and would also play it at churches, funerals, or
any place that wanted some entertainment.
Back in Utah Bill did his Art and Photography at home. Ann being
artistic also always supported Bill and his art talent. She helped him
retouch negatives and hand color prints. She also retouched
negatives for Don Blair’s and Ecker's Photography Studios.
The house that they had moved to in Cottonwood Heights was built by
Bill. He was always capable to try new things and have them turn
out very nice. He also planted 10 acres of peach trees there and
he was now also in the farming business. He enjoyed the hard
work. He put his art work in every art show in Provo, Orem and Salt
Lake City. Many times the news paper clipping of that show would
show one of his paintings. He had many one man shows in Provo. In
the 1950’s Springville Art Museum had a flood in their basement where
they had permanent collection stored during an art show. Bill
restored the damaged oil paintings back to normal for them. He
was treasurer for the Associated Utah Artists in the early 1960’s. Bill
did many sketches of the inside and outside of the Kearn’s Mansion (now
the Governor’s Mansion) for the Utah State Historical Society for their
program that they passed out to visitors when they occupied it in the
late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Bill had more time to paint landscapes and portraits. He would go
up in the canyons and take many color slide pictures of trees,
mountains, streams, fall scenes and clouds. When in CA. he loved
taking ocean pictures. These color slides he would use to paint
his landscapes during the winter months. Being very active in the
art world he had mastered the way he painted and did pencil
sketches. Very many people purchased his works.
His Forty Year Dream: He made his dream come true when he built
and opened his own art gallery “William J. Peters Gallery” in Murray on
Oct. 16, 1960. His grand opening featured works from the
Associated Utah Artists. Art classes were also given by Bill and
Matthew Madsen a prominent Utah artist.
Bill’s work was Realistic. He could capture the exact likeness,
just like he could if he took a photograph of the subject.
Subjects of some of the celebrities he did pencil sketches of were Will
Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Oliver Pricket, Roy Harris (composer),
General Douglas Mac Arthur, Joseph Stalin (Russia’s Leader), American
President’s Franklin D Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, Presidents of
the Church of Jesus Church (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Heber J
Grant), life size oil portrait of Utah’s Senator Moss and 1950’s Miss
Utah, oil portrait of artist’s John (Jack) S. Sears, Seymor
Thomas. Oil canvas 6’ x 9’ of Joseph Smith and Olive Cowdery
getting baptized and confirmed in a stream.
Bill and Ann had two daughters, Carol Ann was born August 9, 1932 in
San Gabriel, LA, California. Donna Mae was born April 20,
1939 in Altadena, California.
In the fall of 1962 Bill got sick and found out he had bladder cancer and he died July 7, 1963 at the age of 62.
Born 23 January 1901 Murray, Utah
Death 7 July 1963 Cottonwood Heights, Utah
Often Known For
Portraits – Landscapes – Seascapes – Pencil Sketches
Oil, Pencil, Charcoal, Ink, Engraving, Etching
Photographs, Slides and Real Life
Museum where work is in Permanent Collections:
Springville Art Museum, Springville, Utah.
Merlin and Alice Steed Collection:
Portrait of A. Merlin Steed 1938 Pencil, 19 ¼” x 14”
Portrait of Alice Wilcox Steed 1945 Pencil, 19 ¼” x 14”
Autumn 1940’s oil on board, 24” x 30”
Hulton-Archive 3072465 at Getty Images
Pencil sketch of Will Rogers 1935.
Museum and Other Non-Gallery Exhibition Venues: All before 1963
Pasadena Jr. Chamber of Commerce: Pencil sketches of past Presidents from 1935 to about 1949. Pasadena, CA
Hillcrest Dining Room in Pasadena, CA
Utah Historical Society: Pencil sketches of the Governors Mansion.
Salt Lake City, UT
White House had a pencil sketch of Franklin D Roosevelt.
Pasadena Post Office: pencil sketch of Franklin D Roosevelt.
Murray High School: Portrait oil painting of 2 coaches and championship team
Portrait oil painting of Jimmy Moss.
Butlerville Ward, Cottonwood Heights, UT.
Large oil painting of the Baptism of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Pasadena Community Playhouse, Pasadena, CA
Pencil sketches and Photographs of many actors and actress
Murray Fraternal Order of Eagles
Four Oil Paintings of Eagles
Submitted by Donna Peters Nunley, daughter of the artist
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