John F. Peto Studio Museum

John Frederick Peto, b 1854- d 1907
120 Cedar Avenue P.O. Box 1022, Island Heights, NJ 08732 - view on Google Maps
(732) 929-4949
“Where winding Toms glides gently to the Bay, On Island Heights – a cottage may be seen There artist lived – of unassuming way, In snug retreat did pleasures know serene.”
—Samuel Callan, friend of John F. Peto
This is the home and studio of John Frederick Peto, the nineteenth century still–life painter and master of the trompe l’oeil style. Following a multi-year preservation project completed in 2011, the Peto-designed house, studio, and gardens are now presented as they looked during his lifetime. Visitors can compare the very furniture and artifacts that Peto owned with the paintings and photographs in which they appear.


Born and trained in Philadelphia, John F. Peto was a successful painter specializing in still-life, often using the illusionistic style known as trompe l’oeil (French for “fool the eye”). In 1889, Peto retreated from the bustling Philadelphia art scene and moved to Island Heights with his wife Christine in search of a quieter life devoted to his art and family. They chose the community of Island Heights, New Jersey, a small town on a bluff above the Toms River that had been developed as a Methodist Camp Meeting Association resort. Peto designed their home, a 2 ½ story Shingle-Style structure on an irregular plan that was completed in 1890 with the studio added the following year. In Island Heights the artist pursued his painting and photography, while also raising a daughter and playing coronet in the town’s Camp Meeting band. Following Peto’s death in 1907, he and his paintings fell into obscurity. Members of the Peto family lived in the home for the next 100 years, making some architectural changes to the house but retaining many furnishings.

The John F. Peto Studio Museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the artist -- celebrating the history of his life, family, and work while examining the human experience during the complex historical period in which Peto lived. Surrounded by objects from the Museum’s permanent collection, visitors develop a deeper understanding of the artist’s world and daily life. This collection includes paintings by Peto, period furnishings and artifacts original to the house, including art that Peto and his wife collected. There is an archive of family records, ephemera, and historic photographs, some by Peto himself. The artists’ easel, painting tools and many of the objects he depicted on his canvases are in the studio, re-creating his working atmosphere. The meticulously restored house and studio are now maintained as a working museum, inspiring and challenging diverse audiences of all ages, fostering educational opportunities in the arts, and serving as a partner in the community. Island Heights, a New Jersey State and National Register Historic District, retains many of the cottages, churches and other amenities built Methodist community.

Did you know...?

The “rediscovery” of Peto’s artwork is a great detective story. In the 1940s art historian Alfred Frankenstein determined that many pieces sold as original paintings by William M. Harnett (a very successful contemporary and friend of Peto) were actually works by John F. Peto. After Peto’s death, it is believed that an unscrupulous Philadelphia-based art dealer purchased a number of paintings by Peto and forged Harnett’s signature over the artist’s name in order to obtain higher selling prices. Examples of Peto works containing forged Harnett signatures can be found on the walls of major museums today, including the paintings Breakfast in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Marked Passage in the Princeton University Art Museum, and Old Time Card Rack in The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C, where they are all correctly attributed to John F. Peto.


Paintings and photographs by Peto, original painting tools, and archival resources.



  • Tour the Peto house and studio.
  • View a temporary exhibition in the Museum’s changing exhibit galleries.
  • Have a picnic in the museum’s garden.
  • Return for an evening program – lectures, workshops, musical performances and more.
  • Explore the surrounding artists’ colony of Island Heights, known for its exquisite Victorian architecture, quiet streets, and riverfront pier and pavilion.
  • Take a self-guided Historical Walking Tour of Island Heights. Printed guides for three different themed tours are available free of charge at the Museum.
  • Stroll on the Island Heights boardwalk nestled along the northern banks of the sailboat-filled Toms River, home of the Island Heights Yacht Club.


  • National Gallery of Art – Washington, D.C.
  • Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, IL
  • Museum of Fine Arts – Boston, MA
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art – Philadelphia, PA
  • Brooklyn Museum – Brooklyn, NY
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – San Francisco, CA
  • Carnegie Museum of Art – Pittsburgh, PA
  • Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden – Washington, D.C.
  • Dallas Museum of Art – Dallas, TX
  • Brandywine River Museum of Art – Chadds Ford, PA
  • Butler Institute of American Art – Youngstown, OH
  • Detroit Institute of Art - Detroit, MI
  • The Phillips Collection – Washington, D.C.
  • Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, TX
  • Cleveland Museum of Art – Cleveland, OH
  • The Hyde Collection Art Museum – Glens Falls, NY
  • Lauren Rogers Museum of Art – Laurel, MS
  • The Newark Museum – Newark, NJ
  • Portland Museum of Art – Portland, ME
  • Smith College Museum of Art – Northampton, MA
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts – Philadelphia, PA
  • Princeton University Art Museum – Princeton, NJ
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington, D.C.