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Peter Hunt

Peter Hunt: Peter Hunt-Decorated Slant-Lid Desk

Peter Hunt-Decorated Slant-Lid Desk

American

1896 - 1967

As legend goes, Peter Hunt arrived in Provincetown in the early 1920s when the yacht he was sharing with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald encountered a gale and was forced to take safe harbor. Wearing a black broad-rimmed hat and a billowing black cape, holding the leashes of his afghan hounds and with a red-headed dwarf scurrying behind, Hunt said he strolled the streets of the village and declared “This is a wonderful place. I must stay here.”

Hunt did stay in Provincetown, establishing himself as a folk artist and furniture director at a collection of shops he named Peasant Village. He employed talented young artists to decorate stools, tables, dressers and other household goods in a colorful peasant style that became the Peter Hunt trademark. 

Hunt’s work was originally “discovered” by the well-to-do summer people on Cape Cod, who found his colorful peasant decorations the perfect accents for their cottages and retreats. They also found Hunt to be charming, witty and a great addition to cocktail parties and dinners, and his mailbox was filled with invitations from the upper crust of Boston and New York.

Soon the buyers from upscale department stores, including Bloomingdale’s, Gimbel’s and Macy’s, got wind of society’s latest fascination in home decoration, and they clambered for Hunt to decorate more and more furnishings and knick-knacks for their stores, often featuring him in special promotions touted with full-page ads in the New York and Boston newspapers.

When the U.S. entered World War II, Hunt brought a new Do-It-Yourself angle to his work. In partnership with DuPont, Hunt published a series of booklets teaching people to transform “old furniture into new”. In a time when the government was encouraging citizens to conserve and recycle, Hunt’s concept was well-received by the media and the mass market, and his booklets were immensely popular.

After the war, Hunt’s wealthy clientele began looking abroad for interior designs, so Hunt focused on mass-market production, and his peasant motifs were found on everything from pottery to Christmas ornaments. His popularity began to wane, and in 1959 he closed his shop in Provincetown and relocated to Orleans, also on Cape Cod. In his later years experimented with decoupage and his own version of psychedelic art. He died in 1967.

Last updated: August 19, 2012

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