A celebration of Carl Schmitt—CSF Open House 2013

Thanks to all who made the annual CSF Open House on Saturday such a delight.  The perfect weather matched the cheer of those gathered to celebrate the life and art of Carl Schmitt.  It was wonderful to catch up with some old friends of the CSF and meet some new ones as well over a delicious luncheon.

CSF founder Carl B. Schmitt, Jr. announced a “new phase” in the Foundation’s development.  In order to devote all of his free energy to writing a book on his father’s thought, he intends to transfer his duties as president of the Foundation to the treasurer and Executive Director.

2013 Open House - admiring new painting

A friend of the CSF admires Carl Schmitt’s Woman and Guardian Angel (1924), one of three works given to the Foundation in the past year.  It is shown here in a frame by Carl’s brother Robert.  The artist’s large canvas, Nativity, done at the same time, hangs in the background.

Executive Director (and yours truly) Sam Schmitt offered a review of the past year, highlighting the publication of the coffee-table book Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty, two successful local exhibits in New Canaan and Fairfield, Connecticut, and one exciting upcoming exhibit in New York.  He also spoke of the generous gift of three new works by Carl Schmitt now on display at the studio-gallery, including Woman and Guardian Angel (above).  Another work, Austin and Cello, painted in 1931, was returned to the Foundation after a period on loan.  The painting is in urgent need of restoration; its surface is now covered with a gauze to protect it from further deterioration.  The CSF is now seeking donations to return this impressive work to its original beauty.


Austin with Cello, oil on canvas, 1931, 48 x 42 in.
This painting was first shown at an exhibition of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in March, 1931, when it was singled out for praise on the New York Times and reproduced in the review of the exhibit.  In the fall of that year it was exhibited at the prestigious Ferargil Gallery in New York, and at the Carnegie Institute’s Exhibit of Contemporary American Paintings in Pittsburgh the following March.  The artist considered it one of his finest works.

Dave Schmitt, the Foundation’s treasurer, thanked Jacob Schmitt, one of Carl Schmitt’s sons, for his generosity in the continuing renovation of his father’s former house in Silvermine, currently the home of the artist’s son Robert and daughter Gertrude.  Major improvements this year include a new roof as well as badly-needed trimming of the large older trees that shade the house.  The Foundation is actively seeking funding to restore the property as Schmitt knew and cherished it.

The upcoming year 2014 is a banner year for the CSF—the 125th anniversary of Carl Schmitt’s birth (May 6, 1889) as well as the 25th anniversary of his death (October 28, 1989).  Watch for news of special events commemorating these milestones in the next few months.


Come to the Carl Schmitt Foundation’s Annual Meeting and Open House

This year’s meeting and open house will take place this Saturday, November 16, from 11 am to 3 pm at the studio-gallery in Silvermine, at 30 Borglum Road, Wilton, Connecticut (see directions below).

  • Four pictures which the CSF has acquired in the past year will be on display, including a lovely painting (below) not seen for many decades.
  • CSF president Carl B. Schmitt, Jr. will present a progress report on the book he is now writing on his father’s thought, one he has been pondering for a number of years. Vice-president Sam Schmitt will report on developments at the Foundation, including new exhibitions and some exciting future plans.
  • As always, there will be plenty of opportunity to catch up with family and friends at the luncheon following the meeting.
  • Plus, copies of the book, Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty will be available at 25% off—just in time for Christmas!

Woman and Guardian Angel, oil on board, 1924, 24¾ x 29¾ in.
One of three works of Carl Schmitt recently given the Foundation.

We’d be delighted to see you there!

Directions to the CSF studio-gallery:
From the Merritt Parkway (Rt. 15) Northbound: Take exit 39B to Route 7 north. At the end of the expressway, turn LEFT onto Grist Mill Rd. At the stop sign, turn RIGHT on to Belden Hill Rd.  *At the first stop sign (3/4 mile) turn LEFT on to Seir Hill Rd. After 1/3 mile, take a RIGHT onto Old Boston Road and the second LEFT (after 1/3 mile) to stay on Old Boston Road.  After the single lane bridge, take a SHARP LEFT on to Borglum Rd. The CSF studios are the third driveway on your right.

From the Merritt Parkway (Rt. 15) Southbound: Take exit 40B to Main Avenue north (the exit is marked “To Route 7 North”). At the bottom of the ramp, turn right, and after 3/4 mile, turn LEFT on to Grist Mill Rd. Go through the lights, and at the stop sign, turn RIGHT on to Belden Hill Rd. and the follow the directions as given for the Merritt Parkway Northbound from this point.*

From I-95 (Connecticut Turnpike) north or south: Take exit 15 to Route 7 north for 3½  miles to the end of the expressway; turn LEFT at the light onto Grist Mill Rd. At the stop sign, turn RIGHT on to Belden Hill Rd. and follow the directions for the Merritt Parkway Northbound from this point.*

From Route 7: Take Route 106 West (Wolfpit Rd.); after 2 miles (immediately after the sign for the school bus stop) turn LEFT onto Old Boston Rd. At the next intersection bear a gentle right onto Borglum Road. The CSF studios are the third driveway on your right.

Wisdom on Wednesdays—Maker or middle-man

“Man has lost all respect for those people who necessarily are economically defenseless and dependent—I mean the so-called creators, those close to the origins.  The minute modern man gives money not primarily in trade, his respect for the recipient of that money is gone.  This means that those whose destiny it is to make, and who wish to continue to make, must either intensify their religious life and find a highly individual happiness in love and humility—or regain the respect of the middle-class majority by deserting their prerogative of originating and join the ranks of the middle-man.  For the artist this has necessarily meant virtuosity, performance (or commercial) ‘art.'” (c. 1931)


Self-portrait, pencil sketch, Akron, Ohio, 1913

Featured painting: Peeled Orange


Peeled Orange, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.

No representation can begin to do justice to the vitality, richness, and depth of Carl Schmitt’s original still life painting.  When viewing—actually contemplating—the original, the words that come to mind are splendor, mystery, fullness, silence, reverence, delight, magnificence.  One finds oneself asking, “How can ordinary objects represented on a stretch of canvas so grip us?  What is going on here?”

The starting premise is that “there is much more than what meets the eye” behind those ordinary things we come across each day.  It is the genius of the artist to communicate that to us.  This is what Schmitt meant when he wrote, “the artist is concerned not with sight but with vision.”

Vision is a penetration into the depth of reality and embodying that insight in a work of art.  As Schmitt noted, “reality is the keynote to life and art. To be aware of reality—to be awake, is to be alive.  To make paint or stone real is to make it live.  A work of art is mature—complete—when it lives and appears real.”

“To be aware of reality—to be awake, is to be alive.”

Schmitt’s mature work is the fruit of a lifetime of perfecting this aesthetic approach and reflecting that vision on canvas.  The composition of a bowl, bottle, and oranges is much more than a photographic representation.  The objects reveal more being.  Schmitt has taken great pains in this painting to capture the form—the active determining principle of a thing—that makes a thing what it is—its “is-ness.”

CSF10001 - detail 1

Peeled Orange, detail

This capturing of intangible form was the “Holy Grail” of the great masters.  They began with an under-painting in a single dark tone as the basis of the form.  They then added a thin layer of color—a glaze of paint—letting the under-painting come through.  This technique helped to give their works profoundness and beauty.

Schmitt, intrigued by color and its myriad possibilities, grappled with the problem of capturing a glowing richness of color without hiding the under-painting.  His breakthrough was to build form with color.  By forming his under-painting with multiple layers of color, then paring and “sculpting” back each layer, Schmitt was able to create a unique depth in his work.  The background is no mere flat laying on of paint, but a sculpting of colors which allows each layer to shine through, resulting in a vibrant iridescence of color.  The final step was to add what Schmitt called the “local” color—the blue of the porcelain dish, the orange of the orange peel, and the effervescent green of the bottle.

CSF10001 - detail 2

Peeled Orange, detail

The artist’s treatment of the glass objects in this painting is particularly revealing of his grasp of their substance.  The blue of the dish as seen through the glass of the large green bottle demonstrates the skill with which the artist layered his colors.  In contrast, the smaller bottles in the background depict glass in a less familiar mode: they seem weighty and almost solid.  “My father loved to paint glass,” Schmitt’s daughter Gertrude recalls; “it was one of the things he loved to paint.”  In this painting, glass is revealed not only as luminescent, but dense and substantial.

“The painter’s business is to paint all that lies outside the empirical field:
to reveal as fully as possible what can never be shown by the camera.
In essence it is to reveal but one thing: volume, mass, and substance,
not to the exclusion of appearance but as a fulfillment of appearance–
in short, to bear witness to the mystery–the miracle–of substance.”

If the mission of the artist is to get us to raise our eyes from the mere usefulness of everyday things to wonder at their inherent beauty, then Carl Schmitt has succeeded magnificently in this still life.

—Austin L. Schmitt

Reprinted from the CSF News, Spring 2010.

Wisdom on Wednesdays— “Hilaire Belloc said to me . . .”

Hilaire Belloc said to me:  ‘There is no such thing as commercial art.  There is art and there is commerce.  When I try to make a work of art I am completely at the mercy of Divine Providence.  Whoever feeds and shelters me, to them I dedicate my book.  It is thus as it has always been.  No work of fine art has ever been done except though the medium of the patron.'”  (1950)


Carrying the Cross, etching, 1922, 7 x 13 in.
One of two etchings given to Belloc by Schmitt in August, 1923