Rack Picture for William Malcolm Bunn

Media - 1973.148 - SAAM-1973.148_2 - 137352
Copied John F. Peto, Rack Picture for William Malcolm Bunn, 1882, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Nathaly Baum in memory of Harry Baum, 1973.148
Free to use

Artwork Details

Rack Picture for William Malcolm Bunn
2420 in. (61.050.8 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of Nathaly Baum in memory of Harry Baum
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Still life — trompe l’oeil
  • Still life — written matter — newspaper
  • Still life — written matter — letter
  • Still life — art object — photograph
Object Number

Artwork Description

John F. Peto made this painting for William Malcolm Bunn, a Philadelphia newspaper editor whose photograph, correspondence, and newspaper banner all appear in the image. Most of Peto's patrons were self-made businessmen, and he would often include references to their work in "rack pictures" meant to hang in their offices. X-rays of this canvas show that Peto at one point included the words "V[er]y Truly Yours/Wm Bunn" beneath the painted photographic image of the editor.

Peto's paintings are like games that make detective work part of the fun of reading them. There are several references to a puzzling character named Garibaldi McFod, whose name appears on the profile caricature of the bearded man. This name also appears on an envelope addressed to McFod at the Sunday Transcript, Bunn's newspaper. (Bolger, "The Early Rack Paintings of John F. Peto: 'Beneath the Nose of the Whole World,'" in Lowenthal, ed., The Object as Subject: Studies in the Interpretation of Still Life, 1996)