I was first introduced to Gitte Peters at a party in a swanky apartment facing port Hercules. Her multi-coloured blots of paint splashed across an imposing canvas captivated my attention. With its contagious vibrancy, I found myself thinking about my mom, who started painting at the age of seventy.
“It’s stunning, isn’t it?” one of the others guests, also dressed in yacht attire as per the dress code, commented softly. “It’s by the Danish artist, Gitte Peters, who lives in Monaco.”
Gitte Peters comes from a family of musicians, including her music-teaching father, but even though she has an ear for music and briefly studied classical piano as a child, art came to her in another medium.
Gitte grew up in Jutland, Denmark, and while she was always aware she could draw, her talent as a painter was discovered as a young adult. “In my twenties, I passed by an art gallery and what I saw in the window hit me,” Gitte told me from her airy Monaco residence, in the company of her daughter Mia. “I have to do this, I thought.” On her way home, she bought easels, paint and canvas and she started to paint.
“When I was ten years old,” Mia shared, “I came home from school one day and our living room had become my mom’s atelier.” Mia, who assists her mom in business, expressed. “Mom created such a synergy working at home. It was just natural, and her painting life became integrated in our family life.”
With no formal art training, Gitte concentrated on perspective. “I wanted to understand why I am attracted to the skilled hand work of one painting and not another.”
Stocked with supplies, Gitte, who says art comes from feelings inside, started out as expressionism first working with acrylics. “I couldn’t paint with oils, because of the odour, in our home.
“Painting was exciting and it still is. You start off with a colour, and the result should be sparkling, happy and calm. In between you ping-pong back and forth from the canvas.”
Gitte’s career began after she gave her first painting to her then sister-in-law in Hamburg, whose neighbour owned an art gallery. He was confident he could sell the work.
She then, by chance, met her art-collecting manager-to-be at a framing shop, Knud Thorbjørnsen (impresario for Rolling Stones and Beatles in Scandinavia), who was reminded of Asger Jorn when he saw Gitte’s work.
Knud Thorbjørnsen was also responsible for putting Gitte in touch with Gallery Knud Grothe in Copenhagen, which continues to carry her work.
“The owner came to see me and said I had to paint 300 more works and then we would talk. So I did.” And when he came back, she was working on a piece and he asked her to create 50 of the same quality and style.
She moved from brushes to a spatula, and from faces to flowers, juggling colour. By 2004, she had rented an apartment and studio in Vence to work on a 6-metre canvas commissioned by the Danish Handball Championship team to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
“When I first moved to Vence in 2004, I was sitting on a high rocky hill, and I could see the sea in the distance, and in this rough environment I felt so many flowers and gratefulness and this inspired my work”. A new style was born and the rough pots for the impressionistic flower paintings came to life. “And this energy is still the core of my flower paintings today.”
Since then, she relocated to Monaco. Gitte has had exhibitions in Copenhagen and Seattle, and this fall in New York. Locally, she did an exhibit at the Monte Carlo Art Gallery in 2010 (it has since changed owners) and donated her work for charity auctions (which is how the tableau I saw found its home). Gitte shared that there is so much to discover as a painter and discipline is the key word. She admitted she doesn’t really have time to sit around and drink coffee with other artists in the Monaco art scene but she wouldn’t be opposed to a showing at the Jonckheere Gallery on ave Princess Grace.
Over twenty years, the artist says she has evolved. “I’ve had many moments that have moved me as an artist. Particularly when I speak to individuals who have saved to buy one of my paintings, maybe not going on a vacation in order to do so. Or at my exhibition in June in Copenhagen, a couple of people came with photos of my art they had bought and talked to me about how happy they were. It was very touching.”
While Gitte is currently looking for an atelier in Monaco, her work can be viewed by appointment or by ordering a copy of her splendid book, Glimpses of Beauty (Une Parcelle du Beau).
“You don’t choose to be a painter – especially if you want a secure income. You just are a painter,” Gitte, who lives by her motto “Love you life … every day”, emphasised.
As for Mia, she added, “I am grateful for my mother’s art. Being up close with art adds a different dimension to life, and there are other ways to do things in life by breaking with conformity. You see what is required to be a professional painter, it’s not a 9 to 5 job with rules – but its an exciting adventure to be part of, and no two days are alike.”
Article first published September 2, 2017.