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Herman Peterson

Herman Peterson

1892 - 1969

Herman Peterson was born in the small Wisconsin town of Fredonia in 1892. Like many of his generation, the dawn of the modern age provided him with the information to imagine a wider world and the relatively cheap and fast transportation to leave behind the small towns and villages that defined nineteenth century America. Probably the first of his family to receive an advanced education, Peterson attended Valpraiso University in Indiana. As an adult, he earned his living by rendering architectural designs, plans, delineations and perspective drawings for various architectural firms in Chicago. As an avocation, his interests were math and engineering, and he counted as friends many university professors and college deans at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. He would paint portraits of many of these friends during the 1930's & 1940's when other work opportunities were few and far between. He charged $1,000.00 for each portrait, a princely sum back then. If Peterson ever attended an art school, or even took a single painting course, it is unrecorded at local Chicago institutions. But the competency of his portrait style, and the tonal sensitivity of his landscapes make some formal art education a foregone conclusion. His landscape painting began in greater ernest during the 1930's. His favorite places to paint included the Indiana Dunes, Starved Rock State Park (the Oregon & Illinois River Valley), and the Skokie Valley Lagoons (Western Winnetka). These landscapes all display the influences of more senior Chicago painters, especially Frank Peyraud and Tom Wilder. It is no leap of imagination to consider that these artists were painting companions as many of these midwestern American plein-air painters worked in social enclaves, traveling together from site to site, all in search of "a good place to paint". If the title of "Renaissance Man" is a bit too broad to describe Petersons' achievements, it is not too broad a term to describe his interests. At the age of 59 he wrote an important article for "Concrete Institute Magazine" (Aug. 1951). In an article entitled "Efficiency of Load Transfer Devices" he described the implementation of prestress concrete slabs for a national superhighway infrastructure. He enjoyed his friendship with Dr. John Bowman, a Physics and Math Professor at the University of Chicago with whom he traded insoluble math equations just for fun! Peterson died in 1969 leaving no direct descendants. Conservative in style, his work represents a late flowering of the American post-impressionist plein-air tradition.


Available paintings by Herman Peterson

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