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 William Jacobus (Bill) Peters  (1901 - 1963)

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Lived/Active: Utah/California      Known for: landscape painting, photography, etching, engraving, sketching

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Ad Code: 4
William Jacobus Peters "The Violin Maker"
"The Violin Maker"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
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 Angeles, CA.

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 picture.

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.  

Birth/Death
    Born 23 January 1901 Murray, Utah
    Death 7 July 1963 Cottonwood Heights, Utah

Lived/Active
    Utah, California

Often Known For
    Portraits – Landscapes – Seascapes – Pencil Sketches

Mediums
    Oil, Pencil, Charcoal, Ink, Engraving, Etching

Methods
    Easel Painting
    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.
        Murray, UT
    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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