Ocean County Cultural & Heritage Commission
Cultural adn Heritage Commission is a division of The Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation

Ocean County Artists Biographies

Gerald Rutgers Hardenbergh (1856 – 1915)

Chadwick House - Watercolor 1890

Gerald Rutgers Hardenbergh, a descendant of the founder of Rutgers University, was born and raised in New Brunswick, NJ, but was real acquainted with Ocean County. As a boy, Hardenbergh had been a frequent visitor to the Chadwick House, a famous gunning club on Barnegat Bay. Working from Chadwick House, Hardenbergh later became an amateur ornithologist and painted shore birds, fish and local scenes. He completed a series of landscape watercolors which were exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the 1880s, a series of color lithographs based upon his original shore bird paintings, and an educational chart of American Bird Life for Scribners in 1915. He also designed a series of china plate patterns based on natural mo tiffs such as fish, seaweed, shells and insects.

Hardenbergh spent his later years in Bay Head, first in a studio/houseboat known as “Pelican” which was moored at the head of Barnegat Bay, and later in a house on West Lake Avenue. It is likely that he used the houseboat as a floating studio for observing botanical, marine and bird life along Barnegat Bay and nearby Beaver Dam Creek. Although Hardenbergh is listed as a professional artist in the 1900 Bay Head census, he exchanged his paintings for groceries and other necessities.

Many of Hardenberg’s most exciting local views were published as part of the American Sporting Scenes Portfolio in 1885.

Bessie Pease Gutmann (1876 – 1960)

Bessie Pease Gutmann moved to Island Heights from Philadelphia and is considered to b America’s foremost illustrator of children. She painted with an unusual technique, applying oil paint to canvas with a soft sponge in order to achieve the delicate tones and textures befitting her subjects. She often used her own children, relatives and pets as models.

Awakening - Oil c. 1910

Gutmann worked as an illustrator for St. Nicholas magazine and also illustrated an edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Her work has received wide exposure throughout the years as it was frequently used advertisements and mass-produced commercial prints, printed by her husband’s firm of Gutmann and Gutmann, Lithographers, of New York City.

Gutmann’s most recognized work is the simple study, “Awakening” showing a radiant, responsive baby.

Captain Amos Birdsall, Jr. (1865 – 1933)

Captain Amos - Oil c. 1889

Captain Amos Birdsall, Jr. was born in Waretown, into a well-known local family of sea captains, privateers, and boat builders. His own yacht, the 14’5” “Lulu” was active in the coastal trade throughout his early life. Birdsall was a self taught artist who generally painted large seascapes and other nautical subjects. He exhibited his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1921, and was a member of the Salmagundi Club and the Washington Art Club in New York. Captain Birdsall could capture on canvas a becalmed sailboat in the mist of Barnegat Bay, a four-masted schooner at sea or a crusty old fisherman in typical foul-weather gear.


Clara Stroud (1890 – 1984)

General Store - Watercolor 1949

Clara Stroud was born in New Orleans, the daughter of an artist and art teacher. A graduate of Pratt Institute, she was a member of the National Association of Women Artists, the American Watercolor Society, the New Jersey Watercolor and Sculpture Society, and the Manasquan River Group of Artists.

Stroud, who was also a landscape designer, lived on the old Herbert estate on the Manasquan River in he Herbertsville section of Brick Township where she and her mother, Ida Mae Wells Stroud, had their studio in the loft of an old barn. There, she maintained ornamental gardens and taught outdoor summer art classes. She painted watercolors of local scenes such as the carousel at Clark’s Landing in Point Pleasant as well as many boat, bird and nature pictures. In the winter, Stroud was active in Sarasota, Florida. Her works are in the collections of the Ringling Museum of Art as well as the Newark Museum, Trenton Museum and Montclair Museum.

Throughout the 1940s, Stroud worked to coordinate the celebration of American Art Week in Ocean County and coordinated a series of exhibits at the Bishop Memorial library in Toms River. She listed in Who’s Who in American Art and Who’s who in the East.

John Fredrick Peto (1854 – 1907)

Ginger Jar, Cake, Nectarine - Oil c. 1900

John Fredrick Peto is the most famous of all Ocean County artists, although he worked in a distinctive Still-life style far removed from the contemporary interest in local landscapes. Born in Philadelphia, Peto was largely self-taught as an artist. He also studied briefly at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Peto moved to Island Heights in 1899. At his home studio at 102 Cedar Avenue, Peto painted illusionary still-life oil paintings including so-called “rack” and “signboard” paintings which became world-famous long after his death. He chose to portray commonplace, discarded objects – old postcards, torn tickets, broken mugs, tattered newspaper clippings- against a dark, masculine background and he frequently incorporated autobiographical elements into his work. He is considered to be a master of the trompe-l’oeil school of American still-life painting.

Testing the Hat - Oil c. 1900

Peto died in obscurity at a relatively early age. He received scant recognition after his death, due in large part to a Philadelphia art dealer who forged the signature of the more-famous William Harnett onto many of Peto’s paintings. However, since the 1950s Peto has been acclaimed as one of America’s most significant artists.


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