Studies and Methods
A Note on Carl W. Peters' Mural Sketches
This page includes studies for all of Carl Peters' WPA murals, which are all held in the permanent collection of the Memorial Art Gallery. These sketches were acquired by the MAG in 2009, when a family friend of Peters' approached curator Jessica Marten and said that her family had around 60 WPA-era drawings in their basement. These sketches caught Marten's eye, and the aquisition of these materials led to a 2015-16 Memorial Art Gallery Exhibition called "Art for the People," which highlighted Peters' sketches.
When examining the sketches on this page, consider looking back and forth between the sketches and the completed murals. Look at what details may have changed, which items were removed, what was added between the sketch and the final painting. These sketches were tools for the artist, and were never really meant to be viewed by the public. Nevertheless, the fact that we have access to so many sketches of Peters' murals provides a great deal of insight as to what the process of painting these murals was like.
Studies for Active Life and Contemplative Life
Two studies for Peters' mural Active Life (left), and two for Contemplative Life (right). Click on each image to expand and view additional studies.
Two newspaper clippings showing the Madison High School murals. One shows scaffolding around Contemplative Life as the mural was being put up. The other shows Peters using a model from Madison High School as a reference for a figure in Contemplative Life. Click to enlarge both images
Studies for The Early Days of the Erie Canal
One study for the full mural, and two close-up studies for portions of the mural. Click any image to enlarge, scroll through, and view a third close-up study.
Studies for Indian Allen and White Woman of the Genesee
Two studies for Peters' mural Indian Allen (left), and two for White Woman of the Genesee (right). Click on each image to expand and view additional studies.
Studies for The History of the Lake Ontario Region
A set of studies for all eight murals in The History of the Lake Ontario Region. Click on any image to enlarge it
Pictured above are three photographs of unidentified assistants working on the Charlotte High School mural set. We know that two assistants were assigned to help Peters complete the his largest WPA comission, and it is also likely that assistants helped with many of his other WPA murals. While we do not know who these assistants are, as they were not credited by name anywhere for their help, they were essential to the creation of these murals. Also note the close-up sketch of the face of a Native American man from the Algonquin Fishermen mural. If you look closely at the photograph on the right of the sketch, you can see the assistant working with the sketch tacked up next to the area she is painting. This is how many of the close-up studies for these murals were used- they were reference for trickier parts of the mural paintings.
Studies for Science and Humanity