Peter Hunt (folk artist)

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Peter Hunt
Born Frederick Lowe Schnitzer
East Orange, New Jersey
Died 1967 (aged 70–71)
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Education self-taught
Known for painting
Movement folk art
Patron(s) Helena Rubenstein, DuPont

Peter Hunt born Frederick Lowe Schnitzer, 1896, in East Orange, New Jersey, - 1967 Cape Cod, was an American artist whose work is described as folk art or primitive art. He gained recognition for his art in the 1940s and 50's when his decorated, refinished furniture was featured in magazines such as Life, House Beautiful, and Mademoiselle.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Hunt grew up in East Orange, New Jersey in a tenement house. Hunt served in World War I in France. After spending time in Greenwich Village, he moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts in the late 1920s with his parents Ma and "Pa" (Edward C.) Hunt. Pa Hunt began painting in 1929, and his naïve art oil painting Peter Hunt's Antique Shop, 1930-34 was acquired by the MOMA in 1941.[2]

In the 1930s, Hunt expanded his business to include several storefronts and workshop space called "Peter Hunt's Peasant Village."[3]

He painted old furniture, household items, and fabrics, decorating them with colorful peasant designs, reminiscent of Pennsylvania German and French Provincial folk art. Hearts, flowers, fruits, birds, angels, and pretty maidens and their suitors adorned hutches, cabinets, dressers, tables, chairs, stools, wooden trays, fabrics, tins, and metalware. Hunt further embellished some of those pieces with pseudo-French phrases scrawled across their surfaces.

With his artistic talent, good looks, charm, wit, and knack for outrageous storytelling, Hunt wooed and delighted wealthy matrons and high-society tastemakers vacationing on Cape Cod. They found him irresistible, and his cheerful designs the perfect look for their summer cottages. Hunt’s clients were rich and influential; among them were Boston socialite Frances Brown Merkel and New York cosmetics diva Helena Rubinstein, both of whom helped advance Peter Hunt’s name and reputation.

He employed young artists to decorate pieces in his signature style, and upscale New York department stores began carrying his furniture and knickknacks. Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Hunt’s star shone brightly. "[4]

Peter designed the "Cape Cod Room" restaurant of Chicago's Drake Hotel in 1935, bringing Cape Cod artifacts and painting murals of the sea.[5] His gained popularity in the 1930s and 40's when he encouraged women to re-make furniture during the economically challenging times of the Great Depression and World War II. His Peter Hunt's Workbook was published in 1945 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. In the 1950s interest in the peasant style waned, and Hunt sold his Peasant Village shops and moved to Orleans, Cape Cod where he opened a shop called Peacock Alley. Peter Hunt died almost penniless in 1967.

Today Hunt's works are collectible and sell at auction for up to thousands of dollars. LaGina Austin, an American folk art specialist, described as work as "folksy and attractive to kitschy almost corny."[6] To recognize a Hunt original, collectors should luck for his rounded cursive signature "Peter Hunt" or "anno Domini" with the year. He always used bright colors in styles that looked like European and Pennsylvania Dutch folk art.[7]


  • How to Transform Outdated Furniture, E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., 1943
  • Peter Hunt's Workbook with text and pictures: Complete Handbook on Decorating Old and New Furniture, Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, 1945 Peter Hunt's Workbook
  • Peter Hunt's How-to-do-it Book, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1952 Peter Hunt's How-to-do-it Book
  • Peter Hunt's Cape Cod Cookbook: A Cape Cod Treasury of Favorite Recipes Illustrated by the Author, Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1954


  • Cape Cod Compass, 1963, "Winter is Best"
  • Design, November, 1950, "Peter Hunt’s Painting Magic"


  1. ^ Folk Artist Peter Hunt Biography
  2. ^ "The Museum Collection, Gallery 1: Modern Primitives, Artists of the People", The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art, 9(2), November 1941, 6-9.
  3. ^ Riedel, Catherine. "The Charm of Peter Hunt," Yankee 75(3), May/June 2011, 44-45.
  4. ^ Ridel, Catherine. "Antiques: Folk Artist Peter Hunt, " Yankee May 2011,
  5. ^ Sweethearts! Steady Your Sealegs For Cape Cod Room Chicago Tribune 1993
  6. ^ Riedel.
  7. ^ "How to tell a real Hunt (And what to pay for it)," Yankee 62(2), 1998.


  • "A Christmas to Make and Remember" and "How to Paint the Peter Hunt Way," McCall's, December 1943
  • "Made-Over Junk: Provincetown artist shows how to transform dark, ugly furniture into gay modern pieces," Life magazine, November 2, 1942
  • "Peter Hunt: A Village Within A Village," Cape Cod Antiques & Arts, September 1982
  • "Revealing the Secrets of Peter Hunt, America’s Most Imaginative Furniture Magician," "Summer Home Life al Fresco: Peter Hunt Salvages Cast-Offs for Helena Rubenstein’s Terrace,"House Beautiful, August, 1943
  • Ruoff, Abby, "Brushing Up on Peter Hunt," Country Living, May 1990
  • National Geographic, June, 1946, photograph "In Peter Hunt’s Studio Overlooking Provincetown Harbor, Girls Make Rugs in old Portuguese style" for "Cape Cod People and Places."
  • Vogue, April 15, 1940, set decoration for "Victorian pair" by Peter Hunt

External links[edit]