A beautiful late still life by Carl Schmitt is now for sale at Taylor Graham Gallery in New York. Schmitt’s still lifes rarely come up for sale on the open market, and late examples are even more uncommon.
The subject of the painting is unique among Schmitt’s works – no other known still life of his depicts game or animals. He includes, of course, his beloved bottles and teacups, and even a note of realism in the radiator in his studio seen in the background.
The painting is a wonderful example of Schmitt’s last “dramatic” period, where the light, instead of coming from without to cast shadows on objects in the painting, seems to come from the objects themselves, making them glow with an inner fire.
The work may have been Schmitt’s tribute to his teacher at the National Academy of Design, the eminent still life master Emil Carlsen (1853-1932), on the 40th anniversary of his death. Carlsen did a number of still lifes with this subject, similar in content if not in design to Schmitt’s work. (One, Still Life Ducks, dating from 1897, is incidentally for sale at Taylor Graham.)
The painting was offered for sale at Capricorn Galleries in Bethesda, Maryland in October, 1973. It was later exhibited at the 34th Exhibit of Wilton Artists in June, 1978, and at Wilton Library Association’s annual exhibit in October of the same year.
According to the Graham Taylor website:
Carl Schmitt once wrote in one of his many notebooks: The artist must have absolute faith in the truth of his imaginative vision.
Thus his goal as an artist was to paint his own aesthetic vision of creation. His guides were his own intuition and reason along with his deeply rooted Christian faith. In Ducks Schmitt reveals the influence of the Impressionists and the Pointillists by adopting their bright and pure colors. However, he chose not to paint with small dots but rather through small strokes and layers of color that built form and endowed substance and solidity to his figures and shapes. His adaption of different colors and the flattening of his canvas through the elimination of shadows resulted in a new lyricism. In our example the light falls equally and evenly across the surface of the canvas. Schmitt explained:
All art is born in lyricism, begins in color and must never lose its lyrical impulse no matter how far sustained.