This large painting, measuring a generous 35¼ by 42 inches, was shown at a number of important shows, including the Carnegie International and the Architectural League of New York’s annual exhibit. In 1928, Schmitt sent the painting to the director of Miss Thomas’ School in Stamford, Connecticut, in payment of his children’s tuition there. It next appears at a sale at the New York’s Berry-Hill Galleries in January 1985, before being acquired by a private collector in Connecticut. This collector lent the work to be shown at the New Canaan Historical Society from November 2010 through March 2011.
The frame looks to be the one originally chosen by Schmitt for the painting, and may be the work of Carl Schmitt’s brother Robert Schmitt. In his list of works for a show at the Wilton (CT) Public Library in 1924, the artist noted that Peace was in “R’s [Robert’s] frame.”
Peace dates from a busy time in Schmitt’s career. He first showed the work at an exhibition at the Silvermine Guild of Artists in the summer of 1923 with two fellow Guild members, painter Charles Reiffel, and Alice Morgan Wright, a sculptor. Schmitt contributed a total of 21 works to the exhibit, including such major paintings as Muses in the Valley, St. Paul the Hermit, and Temples Unfinished. It was the one of the first exhibitions of the Silvermine Guild, formed the previous year as a successor to the original Silvermine Group of Artists (also known as the “Knockers”). This was only one of the dozen or so major exhibits in which Schmitt took part during 1923, including shows at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, National Academy of Design, the Architectural League of New York, as well as those at art museums in Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Omaha, and Detroit.
Peace is the culmination of Schmitt’s experiments in an idiosyncratic symbolic style during the early 1920s. Themes and motifs in a series of smaller paintings depicting figures in a lush forest scene, including “Little Red House” (c. 1920), and Muses in the Valley (1921), and Ancient Episode, (1922) can be seen in Peace a more refined form. In Peace, the single female figure helps to unify the composition, while the disparate images (children, birds, animals, the stylized landscape) play off her to create a satisfying whole. The colors have become more subdued, adding to the sense of harmony and repose.
The painting received some of Schmitt’s most favorable reviews. A critic of the 1924 Carnegie International exhibition in the Pittsburgh Sunday Post declared, “Carl Schmitt, in ‘Peace,’ seems to us to have one of the most logical paintings in the exhibition. To us this picture explains the reason for painting, which is simply that a painter should control forms in space in an arrangement of utter beauty.”
The same writer goes on to compare Schmitt favorably to the well-regarded artist and author Rockwell Kent, then famous for his excursions to far-away locales: Schmitt “has a capacity for development that few painters possess. He is talented and serious in his determination to put onto canvas the ideas that possess him. Rockwell Kent finds his adventures by removing his physical body to remote places but Carl Schmitt achieves the same separation from the entanglements of routine life by the use of intelligence alone. Kent is the pagan, Schmitt is the Christian knight bent on high endeavor.”