didn't even know there was such a thing to be the master of it -
Peto was a master of the "rack picture," a type of trompe l'oeil ("fool the
eye") painting that depicts, with scrupulous detail, miscellaneous scraps of
paper attached to a wooden board by strips of cloth tape. Portrayed here is
a letter-rack grid with a central X, inside which the artist tacked
envelopes, cards, a Jack of Hearts, and a well-known Mathew Brady photograph
of Abraham Lincoln. Peto began painting these pictures to decorate
offices--as illusions of bulletin boards.
Peto was something of a recluse and worked most of his life in obscurity,
first in Philadelphia and later in the seaside village of Island Heights,
New Jersey. He was devoted to battered lamps, old candlesticks, dilapidated
books, and similar things. In this he ran counter to the taste of his times,
which preferred still lifes of rich, rare, and fancy objects. His work thus
failed to attract a large audience during his lifetime.