Peter Caledon Cameron
(English, 1852 - 1934)
Absecon Island, New Jersey
Sandhills near Ventnor–Atlantic City Island
Where Wild Hibiscus Grows: Absecon, NJ
Peter Caledon Cameron was an accomplished artist whose identity has only just begun to emerge. The Schwarz Gallery has had about a dozen large watercolor landscapes he painted of southeastern Pennsylvania and the Atlantic County, including the five included in this exhibition. In addition, two of the artist’s winter views of Niagara Falls recently [ed.: 2004] appeared on the art market.1 Cameron was born in England and, according to the inscriptions on two of these New Jersey watercolors, was certified as a British government art master in South Kensington, London, in 1883. This must have been at the National Art Training School, which was founded as the Government School of Design in 1837 and has been known as the Royal College of Art since 1896. In the inscription accompanying Gloaming on the Tuckerton Salt Marshes (Schwarz New Jersey Remembered, Philadelphia Collection 75, pl. 56), the artist also identified himself as “diplomaed biologist,” but nothing is known of his scientific pursuits. Cameron exhibited one painting, Rising Storm Absecon Meadows, at the annual exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1902 and listed his address as 910 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. According to Who Was Who in American Art, he may also have exhibited in Washington, D.C. The artist’s typically lengthy inscriptions record topographical details, local history, and occasionally the meteorological conditions at the time he worked. Cameron’s meticulously detailed technique and sometimes eerie lighting effects imbue his landscapes with a sense of heightened realism. He appears to have been something of an eccentric perfectionist who was deeply concerned with making as literal a transcription of nature as possible. For this reason he painted directly from nature, and he noted this to the point of redundancy by inscribing two of these watercolors with the phrases “painted on the spot from nature direct” or “Original Study from Nature (done on the spot).” Unfortunately this aesthetic was more in keeping with the past generation of American landscape painters and was completely out of fashion at the Pennsylvania Academy by the 1890s and early 1900s. Notes 1. American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, Sotheby’s New York, May 19, 2004, nos. 64 and 65, pp. 98–99.