Once a viewer becomes familiar with Robert Peterson’s pastel paintings, the paintings become easily recognizable. Peterson always painted simple forms against quiet backgrounds. His subject matter of perfectly formed fruits and vegetables were often combined with every day objects and arranged in interesting, yet minimal compositions comprised of small groupings to be rendered with fingers and pastel on paper.
At a distance, Peterson’s pastel paintings appear more photographic. Upon closer examination, viewers are surprised to find that they have been painted with pastel. Peterson’s depictions are striking! It is obvious that Peterson spent long amounts of time at his easel silently absorbing the visual interactions of shape, color and space. Peterson explained that the process he used reminded him of sculpting clay. First, he used his fingers to apply and rub pastel in saturated color onto the paper. Gradually, the image assumed a dimension and then took shape and in final touches, literally, Peterson rendered the object’s essence.
During his lifetime, Robert Peterson’s strong interest in Eastern philosophies influenced him to convey a sense of serenity and balance in his compositions. Before starting a painting, Peterson studied the subject with an intense, meditative focus. Often he stared for hours at the fruit in front of him before beginning the drawing. “I want to render forms that create space so that the space defines form”. It is no surprise that his pastel paintings portrayed a Zen-like quality. Rather than creating cornucopias of edibles, Peterson focused on just a few, allowing his compositions a minimal, clean presence.
Admirers of Robert Petersons pastels are impressed with his mastery of color, shadows, light and reflections. His pastel paintings are unbelievably lifelike. Peterson liked to joke that if he worked fast enough before the fruit rotted, he could have his art and eat it too. Known among the art community as a master of the medium of pastel, it comes as no surprise that his pastel paintings are widely collected.