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Carl Peters

 (1897 - 1980)
Carl William Peters was active/lived in New York.  Carl Peters is known for landscape, marine-genre, figure and mural painting.

Carl Peters

Biography from the Archives of askART

From Rochester, New York, Carl Peters became an American Scene painter and regionalist. During his growing years where he was raised on a farm in Fairport, a Rochester suburb, he was exposed to a variety of artistic movements including the Hudson River School painters, tonalist tradition, Ashcan School, American impressionism, and early modernism.

At the age of sixteen, he declared himself an artist and reportedly painted every day for the rest of his life. After attending art school in Rochester, he enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City and spent several summers in Woodstock, New York, studying with Charles Rosen and John F. Carlson, the latter being his most influential teacher.

His forte was snowscenes, which he frequently painted in the Genesee Valley on his family farm near Fairport. He also spent many summers near Cape Ann, Massachusetts. He exhibited widely and won three Hallgarten Prizes from the National Academy of Design, 1926, 1928, and 1932. He was a camouflage artist in the army during World War I, and he also did WPA murals for the Federal Arts Project during the Depression years. In spite of the pervasive modernist movement, he remained true to a realistic style of landscape painting.

His work is in numerous museums including the National Museum of American Art, the Memorial Art Gallery and Strong Museum of Rochester, New York; the Fairport Museum of Fairport, New York; and the Rockport Art Association in Massachusetts.

American Art Review, June 1999
Additional information and the correction about the family farm being located in Fairport, near Rochester, and not near Woodstock, New York, courtesy of Samuel Profeta, whose source is the widow (now deceased) of the artist.

Biography from R.H. Love Galleries
Carl Peters was one of America's successful and intriguing artists, a master landscapist and genre painter within the realist tradition, represented in his time by the American Scene and regionalist movements. Peters also executed a series of murals under government sponsorship during the Depression era. Some critics have said that his drawings that were executed on the front lines in war-torn France in 1917-18 rival those of John Singer Sargent.

For his urban and rural snow scenes, Peters was the winner of three Hallgarten Prizes at the National Academy of Design. He also won numerous other prizes throughout his career, including the first ever Fairchild Award in Rochester (1924).

He exhibited his works regularly at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, the Fort Worth Museum, the Rockport Art Association and the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Carl Peters's formative years were spent in the city of Rochester but as a young teenager, he moved with his family to a farm near Fairport. Peters realized his talents at an early age, and devoted every day of his life to becoming a professional artist (he had already declared himself an artist in 1917).

When America joined World War I, Peters became a soldier and was sent to France where he worked as a camouflage artist. After the war, he returned to Rochester with vivid front-line sketches and even a few paintings. Besides sketching and painting every day, and acquiring the fundamentals of art education in Rochester, Peters continued his training in New York City. He enrolled in the Art Students League in New York in the fall of 1919. Soon Peters took advantage of the League's summer school program in Woodstock, where he was exposed to more progressive ideas, including the "Ash Can" philosophy of Robert Henri; both Henri, whom Peters heard in Woodstock in the summer of 1921, and George Bellows deeply influenced him.

At Woodstock, Peters came into contact with the dynamic "Rock City rebels," including Andrew Dasburg, Henry Lee McFee and Konrad Cramer, who were developing what became known as a "rural cubism." Peters would slowly assimilate some of these influences as well as elements of Cézannesque formalism, by now (1920) widely accepted, into his own style. At the A.S.L., Peters studied outdoor landscape painting initially under Charles Rosen (summer of 1921), who at that time was vacillating towards modernism, then under John F. Carlson (summers of 1922 to 1924), who became another important mentor.

While winning impressive awards from art institutions, Peters established a painting routine, spending the winters in Geneseeland, painting both urban and rural snow scenes, and the summers in the active artists colony on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, where he encountered Aldro T. Hibbard's milieu. As soon as Peters began to exhibit his works, in 1923, critics sensed something spiritual in his art; the Rochester art community realized that an impressive and genuine young artist had entered the scene. Away from home, Peters became a member of the Rockport Realist circle of Hibbard, William Lester Stevens, and Maurice Compris.

Then at the dawn of the Great Depression, Peters executed a huge, impressive mural, which showed his outstanding talents as a large-scale artist, far surpassing the demands of easel painting. Here he applied his expert knowledge of academic figure painting, integrating a complex design into an architectural setting. Peters would receive more commissions for murals until 1942, when the heyday for public art had passed, and the styles of European modernists, which puzzled most viewers, especially in cities like Rochester, took precedence.

During the Depression years, Peters struggled, as did most artists, but he found comfort in his art, turning toward a more colorful bravura, simplifying form and exploiting color as never before.

Besides this major contribution, for years, Peters taught outdoor summer painting courses in Rockport and classes at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. Until his death in 1980, Peters maintained a studio at the farm in Fairport near the Erie Canal, and another in Rockport, where he produced an amazingly large group of fascinating American images. He joined the group known as the Rationalists (later called the Genseeans or the Genesee Group), the so-called liberal conservatives, who believed, as did many American Scenists and Regionalists that painting needed "real values, in religion, government, and art." Peters never lost sight of his goal to paint the ordinary American working people and to capture his own local "Spirit of Place."

Peters was given one-man shows in his native Rochester, several times, and toward the end of his life, the Rochester Art Club honored him with a special ceremony.

Works by Peters may be found at the National Museum of American Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution, in the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, and in various private collections.


Love, Richard H. Carl W. Peters: American Scene Painter from Rochester to Rockport. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1999.

Biography from Edgartown Art Gallery
Carl William Peters (1897-1980) was an American Scene painter who executed winter landscapes in his native Genesee Valley in western New York and summer port scenes in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Peters studied at the Art Students League in New York and then spent the following four summers in Woodstock, the League's summer school, where he initially studied under Charles Rosen, and then under John Fabian Carlson; He was also attended lectures by Robert Henri, who as a Social Realist leader inspired Peters to become a painter of modern life and of ordinary, working people.

From the Woodstock "radicals" Dasburg and Cramer in Woodstock, Peters integrated certain aspects of Cézannesque formalism and "rural cubism" into his style. Carl Peters went on to win national awards, including three Hallgarten Prizes from the National Academy of Design.

In 1930, at the beginning of the Depression era, Peters received the phenomenal sum of $5,000 for an important mural, commissioned by a flourishing local bank in Rochester. Five mural commissions followed up to 1942, and then Peters finished the remainder of his career painting landscapes in Rochester and Cape Ann.

By capturing the spirit of these two different areas, Peters joined those in many American regions who came together to create a larger, unified spirit of nationalism. As a pioneer regionalist Peters forecast the art of the coming decade, which was seen as a reaction to European modernism.

Biography from Newman Galleries
Carl Peters was born in upper New York State in 1897.  He was a pupil of noted American artists Charles Rosen, Harry Leith-Ross, and John Fabian Carlson.  A respected member of the artistic community in Rochester, New York, he belonged to many professional organizations including the American Federation of Artists, the Rochester Art Club, the Rockport Art Association, and the American Watercolor Society.

The artist was the recipient of many prizes, including those awarded by the National Academy of Design, the University of Rochester, the North Shore Arts Association, and the Buffalo Society of Artists.   He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the late 1920's and early 30's.

Peters was a member of the Rockport Art Association in Cape Ann, Massachusetts. He spent many summers there capturing the idyllic beauty of the New England summers.  His permanent home was in Fairport, New York.

The artist died in July 1980.

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About  Carl Peters

Born:  1897 - Rochester, New York
Died:   1980
Known for:  landscape, marine-genre, figure and mural painting