Wisdom on Wednesdays—The pangs of birth


Woman of Kotor, oil on aluminum, c. 1930, 42 x 34½ in.

“All nature seems to exist in order to prepare for birth;
The pangs of which are death.” (1956)


More “lost” paintings—Imaginative works

Last week we looked at several early “lost” works of Schmitt.  There is also a trove of imaginative paintings from the 1920s—among them Schmitt’s most acclaimed works—whose owners and locations remain unknown.

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A Christening Party at Chartres, oil on canvas, 1928.
After being shown at the 27th Carnegie International to critical acclaim, this painting was bought by the Pittsburgh Athletic Club in January 1929 for $1,500.  A search by the Carl Schmitt Foundation at the PAC was unsuccessful and the painting’s location remains unknown.

Muses on the Mount, 1921 — The first of a series of “muse” paintings which includes Muses on in the Valley (1921) and Muses Marooned (two versions, 1934 and 1936).  The painting, along with Dalmatian Mother and another unlocated work, Cafe, Chartres, was sent to Mrs. Julius Goldman, whose father-in-law was the founder of Goldman Sachs.  It is not known if Mrs. Goldman purchased the work.

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An unidentified “muses” painting, probably Muses on the Mount

Temples Unfinished, 1921 (oil and Hawthorne medium, 25 x 30 in.) — One of a number of paintings inspired by the artist’s love for Rome and its architecture (others include Esto Perpetua and Schmitt’s depictions of the palace of Septimius Severus), this work was shown at the Carnegie International in 1921, and in 1923 at the National Academy in New York.  It also figured prominently in a three-man show in Silvermine in the summer of 1924, one of the first hosted by the new Silvermine Guild of Artists.

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Temples Unfinished, 1921
A contemporary black-and-white photograph in the Carl Schmitt Foundation archives.

From that Silvermine show the painting was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Walter S. Poor of New Canaan, Connecticut.  The Poors were one of Schmitt’s most loyal local patrons at the time, purchasing no less than seven works from the artist between 1922 and 1924. Their collection of Schmitts included the lovely pastel Peach Blossoms, later given to the New Canaan Historical Society and shown at an exhibition of the artist’s works there in 2011.

Land of Efthil, 1922 (30 x 36 in.) — First exhibited at the Carnegie International in 1922, no photograph or detailed description exists for this curiously-titled work.  A critic from the Christian Science Monitor described it and Temples Unfinished as “tranquil transcripts of antique themes.”

A Gift of Fruit, 1926 (below) — A masterpiece of Schmitt’s tapestry style, this painting was shown at the 25th Carnegie International exhibition in 1926 and sold the next year from a show at Art Institute of Chicago. The last known owner was Mr. Harold Janisch, a Boston banker, in 1944. The New York Evening Post described it as “a vast web of color holding forms in its tapestried pattern, yet for all its flaming tones subdued to its unity of design.”

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A Gift of Fruit, 1926, oil on canvas (a contemporary black-and-white photograph).
Frank Jewett Mather, professor of art at Princeton University and a leading art critic of the day (and one of the few admired by Schmitt), called it “nosegay of color,” “a celestial thought of motherhood treated with a delightful levity and joyousness.”

A Picnic, 1927 (oil on canvas, 35 x 42 in.) — One of Schmitt’s best known works at the time, A Picnic was shown at numerous national and international exhibitions before being purchased by Arthur Judson, manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.  Judson lent it to the Century of Progress exhibition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, but there has been no trace of it since then.

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A Picnic, 1927
A critic for a Philadelphia paper called it “a modernized Botticelli. The whole is very amusing and effective, a joyous little canvas.”

According to a critic in the New York Times, the painting “hints remotely at some prescribed rite, an implication all the more appealing that it is so woven with the material of daily life.” The review offers perceptive remarks on Schmitt’s treatment of the figures and tress in the background, a feature noted by other critics.

“It depends almost wholly upon the interesting treatment of the framework in which the episode is placed, but this framework follows a fashion of modern theatre borrowed from a long past century, the fashion of bringing the stage into the body of the theatre and letting the actors in among the audience. Gothic arches are formed from the branches of tall, sleek trees, the foliage forming a rich ornament like that surrounding the porches and windows of medieval cathedrals. The background figures stand within these arches or advance through them, and in the foreground other figures are seated at the little feast, while children and dogs play and take natural, funny attitudes that perfectly fulfill the design.”

A Christening Party at Chartres, 1928 (oil on canvas, 45 x 54 in.) (see image above) — One of many works inspired by Schmitt’s stay in Chartres, France 1926-27, a reviewer called it a “golden gaiety,” “one of those pictures which make you long to be in the place depicted.”  The painting was first exhibited at the 27th Carnegie International exhibition in late 1928, after which it was purchased by the Pittsburgh Athletic Association.  A search by the Foundation in the PAA’s headquarters in was unsuccessful.

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A Christening Party at Chartres (center) hung at an exhibition, probably the 1928 Carnegie International.

The location of a very similar painting, Dance of Life, Chartres, was also unknown until its owner contacted the Foundation in 2011.

The Second Night, 1929 (oil on canvas, 48 x 40 in.) — This enigmatic painting, first shown at the Carnegie International exhibition in 1929, was seen in cities across the country in the next 7 years. It was owned by Schmitt’s patron John Kenneth Byard in 1936 (who lent it to a show in Dallas that year), but was not among the artworks given by Byard to his alma mater Hartwick College in 1950.

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The Second Night. 1929

Asked by a curator at the St. Louis Museum of Art about the “meaning” of the painting, Schmitt responded, “As I am reluctant to inflict mystical implications upon what is largely an extroverted public, I thought it best only to imply through the title the idea of the ‘second night of the soul’ and to allow the beholder to make his own story.”

If you own any work by Carl Schmitt, or wonder if the painting, pastel or etching you own may be one of his works, we would be delighted to hear from you!  We are especially interested in works not found in the CSF website’s online gallery.

Wisdom on Wednesdays—The wise man is never lonely

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Self-Portrait, oil on hardboard, c. 1965, 15 x 12 in.

“A man may be said to be wise when he has grasped the essential absurdity of stoicism as a final mode of conduct; when, in other words, he can suffer and be happy alone (that is dependent on God, not man).  When, in other words, he is never lonely.  The man who is wise can die alone.”  (1932)

Seeing things from the “inside out”: The contribution of Rome

Carl Schmitt’s son Jacob has written extensively on his father’s life, work, and aesthetic philosophy.  This excerpt discusses Schmitt’s awakening to the unique contribution of Rome not simply to world culture in general, but the interiority which is vital to any authentic endeavor in the arts.


Palace of Sepimius Severus, c. 1940, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in.
A painting based on sketches done by Schmitt while in the Rome in the 1930s.

While on a second honeymoon in 1934, after visiting Dalmatia and the little towns of Korčula, Split, and Dubrovnik along the Adriatic where he had visited as a student, Schmitt continued to Venice, Florence, and Rome.  One afternoon, while sketching the gigantic ruins of Septimius Severus palace in Rome, he once again was reminded of the significance of place.  Nowhere, he recounts in his notes, had he found as here in Rome, a sense of permanency and interior quietude.  This “realization” was first experienced during his student years in Italy, but here and now, in the Eternal City, he found a more profound, conscious realization of it—a sense of what he first called “interior being.”


Palace of Sepimius Severus, c. 1940, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in.
“The Fine Art of Architecture did not appear until the creative genius of Rome brought it into being,” Schmitt wrote in 1956. “The poetry of interior space with shadow had to be revealed in the Pantheon the baths and the basilicas of Rome before the paradox of the Fine Arts was proclaimed.”

His mind went back to the time when these ancient ruins, the Theater of Marcellus, the Baths of Caracalla, and the still-standing Pantheon, were built with massive archways and vaulted ceilings that soared to the heavens with a glorious spacious interiors—what he later called the form of interior space.

These magnificent interior structures were created by and signified, in his mind, an interior, personal maturity not seen in any previous age.  Here in Rome, he thought, was what the true Renaissance was seeking—the manifestation of a full human person who recognized the superiority of an interior, familial life over the social, political life endemic of the Grecian contribution.  Rome had turned inside out all that it had absorbed from the idealized, aesthetic Grecian culture.  It had unified all the scattered Grecian city-states into the one centralized political system of Rome—Urbe et Orbe (the city of Rome and the whole world).

Pennsylvania Station, etching, dated June 16, 1916.
The great hall of the massive Beaux-Arts structure in New York City, now demolished, was modeled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Thus, for Schmitt, the Roman sense for interior space became a more inclusive realization and expression of reality.  It had the advantage of an interior vision of seeing things from the “inside out” rather than from the Platonic-Grecian idealized vision of looking “on” or “at” things from the “outside in.”  This was a more personal development without which no true perfection in anything could be developed.  Here was the central aspect of his aesthetic dramatic stage more fully realized.

No wonder, he thought, that this interior form of the Roman Republic was able to permeate, absorb, and inform the then-known world.  No wonder Peter and Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, found themselves in Rome transforming this personal, pagan, interior maturity—first prepared for by the realization of the hidden interior nature of reality found in Aristotelian thought—into an interior Christo-centric reality.


Interior of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Korčula, Dalmatia, pastel on paper, June 16, 1926
“The era of Augustus with its grandeur and peace could never have occurred without magnificent virtue, and it is only on such magnificent natural virtue that the supernatural virtues of Christianity can be placed, if they are to survive (short of miracle).” (1943)

Tracing Carl Schmitt’s “lost” paintings

Over the past few years, people from as far away as Hawaii have contacted me, eager to tell about the work of Carl Schmitt that they own.  Naturally, I am gratified to hear of those who appreciate Carl Schmitt and want to learn more about his work and further his legacy.  More importantly, those who contact the CSF in this way do a tremendous service to everyone interested in Schmitt.


Study for “Reading,” 1936, pastel on paper, 23 x 19 in.
A pastel sketch of the artist’s wife Gertrude (sitting) and her close friend Margaret Ryan, later executed as an oil painting for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the mid-1930s. The location of the oil painting remains unknown. 

Although the Foundation makes every possible effort to locate Schmitt’s unknown works, many are effectively “lost,” or untraceable, and will remain so until the owners themselves contact the Foundation.  The photographic record, as well as details about Schmitt’s works (dimensions, signature, date and other markings) supplied by these individuals are invaluable in building up our catalog raisonné, revealing more of the artist’s stylistic development and his contribution to art in the twentieth century.  For this we are very grateful.

Schmitt’s “lost” works include paintings, pastels, etchings, and drawings; most date from the first half of his career (1906-1940).  The Foundation’s archives hold valuable clues that can help in the search, including exhibition history, critical reviews and other press reports, the last known owner, and in a few cases, photographs of the work.  We will explore this record in the next few weeks, highlighting his imaginative and religious paintings. We will also be looking works which have been “found” by those who have contacted the Foundation with information about their painting or pastel.

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Still Life, oil on canvas, signed lower left: “S/1936”
One of three still life paintings done for the WPA in the mid-1930s.

In this post we focus on some of Schmitt’s early works, culminating in an important portrait commission from the 1930s.

Opus Minor No. 1, 1911 (15 x 18 in.) — An early still life, described as a “beautiful painting done in dark tones,” it was  Schmitt’s first work to be accepted by a major national exhibition.  The eminent still life master and Schmitt’s former teacher, Emil Carlsen, “highly praised” the work when it was shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in February and March of 1912. The painting was later shown at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Academy of Indianapolis before being bought by the Youngstown architect Charles F. Owsley.  (Owsley also commissioned a pastel portrait of his son from Schmitt, now unlocated.)

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One of Schmitt’s early still lifes, possibly Opus Minor No. 1 or another entitled Study (1912), from a photograph in the Carl Schmitt Foundation archives.

Aspiration – Symbolic Decoration, 1912 (oil over tempera) — This work was commissioned by W. D. Packard of Warren, Ohio, founder of the Packard Motor Car Company.  Packard was so pleased with the work that he commissioned a second painting the following year, Shadow Dance – Rondeau.  Packard also commissioned Schmitt to paint his own portrait, which was to hang in the office of the park he left to the city.  No trace of any of these paintings has been found.

Ruth, 1916 (oil on board, 25 x 30 in.) — One of several commissioned portraits Schmitt did for well-to-do citizens in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, and the surrounding area in the early years of his career. This painting, a portrait of the young daughter of a doctor from Youngstown, is his only known oval painting.

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Ruth, 1916, oil on board, 25 x 30 in.
The frame is an early example of the work of Carl’s brother Robert, who had recently completed his apprenticeship with Herman Dudley Murphy at the famed Carrig-Rohane shop in Boston.

God’s Garden, 1916 — While no known photograph of the painting exists, a reviewer described it in the following terms: “outlined against a yellow ship’s sail and a gray sky is a group of three or four figures: they are on elevated ground, at the foot of which may be glimpsed a bit of deep blue ocean. In the dress of the figures and in other externals there is a suggestion of the Greek: the idea suggests the fortunate isles.”  Schmitt himself said of the painting, “In that land there is wonderful dawn without dark night to precede it–light is understood without shadow. It is the land in which the human heart finds a release from the puzzling paradox–life in the flesh.”

In 1920, the painting was bought by Samuel Prentiss of Winona, Minnesota, a former client of Schmitt’s father-in-law, the architect Austin W. Lord.  Lord had designed a handsome Georgian mansion for Prentiss in 1912, one of a pair built for him and his brother-in-law Frederick Bell.  The house was recently restored.

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Dusting, c. 1934, oil on canvas
One of six paintings done for the Works Progress Administration.

Paintings and pastels done for the Works Progress Administration, 1934 — Schmitt executed six works in oil for the Depression-era program: three still lifes, one imaginative, one portrait and one religious painting. He also completed eight pastels.

The state of Connecticut distributed these works to various state institutions, including sanatoriums, hospitals, and colleges.  All of the institutions to which Schmitt’s paintings were dispersed have since closed or been transferred to different agencies, and the artwork has been lost long the way.  The Connecticut State Library’s WPA Art Inventory Project has been trying to track down and recover these works through a database with information on the artwork from WPA files, including the work of Carl Schmitt.

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Tanagra and Vase, two versions, both oil on canvas, c. 1934.
The painting on the right (taken from a contemporary black-and-white photograph) was done for the WPA; its companion on the left, done around the same time, is owned by one of Schmitt’s grandsons.

Portrait of Zell Hart Deming, 1937 — Deming, owner and editor of Schmitt’s hometown newspaper, the Warren Tribune, was the first of Schmitt’s patrons and a life-long friend.  The first editor-owner of an American newspaper and the first woman to be a member of the Associated Press, Deming funded Schmitt’s study in New York at the National Academy and his trip to Italy a few years later.  Over the years she purchased or arranged the sales of over twenty of Schmitt’s oil paintings and dozens of his pastels, etchings, and drawings.  She also introduced Schmitt to her godson, the poet Hart Crane, and helped arrange Schmitt’s guardianship of Crane in New York in the early months of 1916.

Zell Hart Deming 1936, oil on canvas, signed “Carl Schmitt/1937” upper right 
A newspaper in nearby Youngstown wrote that the “portrait faithfully captures Mrs. Deming’s personality, which was characterized by her forceful yet kindly manner.  Schmitt knew her for many years and spent several months painting the portrait.”

The newspaper commissioned Schmitt to paint this portrait for its offices as a posthumous tribute.   The Tribune article announcing the hanging of the painting reads much like earlier congratulatory pieces published by Deming herself:

“The painting is the work of Carl Schmitt of Silvermine, Conn. (son of Prof. and Mrs. Jacob Schmitt of this city) who was most fortunately adapted to the task by reason of his long acquaintance with Mrs. Deming, in addition to his outstanding qualities as a portraitist. From the time he embarked on his artistic career as a boy, here in Warren, Mrs. Deming recognized Mr. Schmitt’s talent and the possibilities inherent in it, and thruout her life she continued in a very real sense to be his patron.”

An inquiry to the newspaper as to its whereabouts proved fruitless.  Schmitt produced two versions based on the same photograph, one shown here and another now in the Carl Schmitt Foundation studios.

Next week we look at several “imaginative” paintings from the 1920s whose locations remain unknown.

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