Charles Rollo Peters (American, 1862-1928)
San Fernando Mission, n.d.
Oil on canvas 24 in. x 16 in. (60.96 cm x 40.64 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of William C. Wright, conserved with funds provided by the Historical Collections Council of California Art1962.23
The loss of California’s tangible history made a deep impression on Charles Rollo Peters, and to him, the most potent signifiers of this loss were crumbling adobe houses and mission buildings. Although Peters primarily painted the architecture of Monterey, California, he also portrayed adobes up and down the coast, heightening their romance by depicting them at night. Peters was born in San Francisco and educated at the Urban Academy. He studied art privately with Jules Tavernier and, in 1880, under Virgil Williams and then Chris Jorgensen at the California School of Design. His early paintings were coastal views of the San Francisco Bay. Many included dramatic lighting effects and scenes set at dusk or twilight. In 1886, Peters went to Paris to continue his training at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. He was working in the Dutch village of Katwyk on the North Sea when he discovered his true penchant for painting night scenes. “One night I was struck by the fact that the combination of old church tower, of lowly huts, and of fishing vessels . . . looked much better in the moonlight than during the day,” he explained. “So I painted the moonlight scene, and this led me to specialize on nocturnes.”1 Peters returned to San Francisco in 1889. Two years later, he married and returned to Europe, working in the forest of Fontainebleau and Brittany, France. He became Monterey’s resident Prince of Darkness in 1895, devoting his talents to nocturnal depictions of California’s most historic coastal community.