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Emily J. Peters

Meet the new curator of prints and drawings
August 22, 2017

Emily J. Peters Curator of Prints and Drawings

Last spring Emily J. Peters joined the museum after a dozen years at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence. She holds an MA and a PhD in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a BA from the University of Michigan. Here she shares thoughts about the commonalities and differences among media and the roles that prints and drawings can play in the overall museum experience.

Prints were the first form of visual mass communication in Europe. I’ve always seen parallels between early-modern prints and today’s advertising and graphic design in that both generally serve to communicate specific ideas to a wide audience. With current digital media, the idea of “mass” has become global as opposed to the 16th century when it meant reaching beyond the confines of Germany to Italy and France. In the case of prints and drawings, unlike some digital processes, the artist’s hand is still relevant. Drawings provide direct access to the artist’s thought process and unique hand. In printmaking there is always a close correlation between technique and the final result—the artist’s planning and constant revisions create a kind of mystery that I enjoy uncovering for audiences. Both prints and drawings can reveal something about the social and political contexts of making; I am always drawn to this type of social history. 

My first exhibition next winter, Graphic Discontent: German Expressionism on Paper, will focus on German Expressionist prints and drawings from about 1905 to about 1925. The art from this era is powerful and emotional, and the show will feature rarely seen important works from our unique and varied collection. In the coming years, I’m looking forward to working on exhibitions focusing on Northern European Mannerism, my field of expertise, as well as to collaborating with the Print Club of Cleveland for an exhibition honoring its 100th anniversary in 2019. Light-sensitive works on paper can be displayed only for short periods, so the need for constant rotation also provides an opportunity to make sure there’s always something fresh on view.

I enjoy looking at prints and drawings with artists, as each artist offers a different perspective. I recently visited Zygote Press and the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, and I look forward to meeting faculty members in printmaking and drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art. This is a vibrant community with a lot of discourse.   


Cleveland Art, September/October 2017