The Memorial Art Gallery and Carl Peters

A landscape painting titled "Autumn Beeches" by John F. Carlson

Even though the Peters family moved out of Rochester right before the Memorial Art Gallery actually opened, Carl Peters was entering his teen years and getting more serious about his art education. This meant that he ended up still spending a good amount of time taking advantage of the resources available in the city of Rochester that were nonexistent in the country. Carl would frequently bike or take public transportation to Rochester to attend lessons at the Mechanics Institute or view art shows. So, even though there were about eight miles via bike between Peters and the MAG, he frequented the museum and attended any show that caught his eye. In fact, the inaugural exhibition of the MAG contained a John F. Carlson painting by the name of Silver Acres, which is one of the paintings that introduced Carl Peters to the style of impressionism that would go on to define his own art style. He attended this inaugural show, and though he did not leave any record of his preferences for this particular show, he did reflect numerous times on how important Carlson’s landscape paintings were to him. These depictions of New York State’s wilderness showed Peters exactly what he wished to capture through his own paintings. Many decades later, Peters reflected back on an unnamed piece by Carlson by saying “It was one of Carlson’s pictures that turned me into a painter: it was a tree picture– the kind of subject I knew on the farm. My life might have been different if I hadn’t seen that picture.”[28] Though it is not known for certain that the painting Peters’ is referring to is the same one that was in the MAG’s inaugural show, it is still likely that the Memorial Art Gallery led him to that painting in some capacity.

A photograph of the Rochester Art Club from a 1940 Democrat and Chronicle article. 

The Memorial Art Gallery reminded a strong and constant presence in Peters’ life throughout his art education in Rochester, and led him to many of the contacts that shaped his career as a painter. For instance, it was through relationships developed in part through the MAG that Peters found his way into the Rochester Art Club. Since its opening, the Memorial Art Gallery maintained a close relationship with the Rochester Art Club through George Herdle, the MAG’s first director. When Herdle died at the young age of fifty-four from a sudden illness, the Rochester art community mourned his loss, and Peters himself reflected on many of the different events and exhibits organized by Herdle that had been so inspirational to him as a young artist. About a month later, Peters was voted to be accepted as an active member of the Rochester Art Club. Though Peters and Herdle were not in the club at the same time, Herdle was certainly a great artistic influence for Peters, and his memory was not forgotten amongst the members of the Rochester Art Club.[29]

It was through the Rochester Art Club that Peters began showing his own art in the Memorial Art Gallery. From the Memorial Art Gallery’s opening up until 1938, the Rochester Art Club held their Annual Exhibition at the museum. It was in many of these shows that Carl Peters found his work finally being on view at the gallery. 

Selections from Carl Peters' 1915-1964 Scrapbook, showing a program from Peters' one-man show at the MAG, a newspaper clipping discussing the show, and the certificate from Peters' Fairchild Award (click on files to enlarge and view full files).
Rochester's Art History
The Memorial Art Gallery and Carl Peters