Roland Petersen: A Painter's Life: Triton Museum of Art

January 7 - April 23, 2023

Roland Petersen: A Painter's Life


A famous artist once said, “If you want to understand one of my paintings, then you have to see all of my paintings.” Because no artist springs whole into their mature style, it takes years of learning and experimenting. Further, no artist paints in a vacuum. “Art is about many things, but it is always about other art.” And starting with the knowledge of what has come before, the artist comes to their personal expression of how they want us to see the world.

In this exhibition of nationally known and museum collected Bay Area artist Roland Petersen, we see this development come to life in front of us. Through his own painting and teaching at Washington State University and UC Davis, he came to develop his own signature style.

In this show, we start with the advance of his palette from the muted to the vivid as we view Silent Landscape of 1953, progressing to hitting his modern stride in the 1980s, initially in the iconic Picnic with Cat and Books.


The observer will also note in Petersen’s work his experimentation with previously developed styles. Look at Banana Banquet from 1950 to see how he viewed a still life from a cubistic perspective. Or Side Bank Loop from 1972 to see his effort to view the world from an abstract geometric point of view. After palette and style set the tone, the observer now is prepared to understand the context of the painting.


In Petersen’s most recent works we see the fusing of the abstract and the impressionistic. And in so doing he invites you into his warm and engaging tableaus. Good paintings always provoke us to ask questions. Roland Petersen gently encourages us to wonder, what is going on here? Do we want to be with these people in this view of Petersen’s reality or just remain as observers? What will we take away from our experience? This is what a master artist at his peak asks us.


by Jeff Brown, M.D.
Triton Museum Trustee