A new generation of artists at the Carl Schmitt Studio

CSF Creative Director and Artst-in-Residence Andrew de Sa welcomes local students to the Carl Schmitt studio-gallery in Silvermine.

A guest post by CSF Creative Director Andrew de Sa

Thirty years after his passing, Carl Schmitt is reaching a new generation of artists.  This Spring, I’ve had the joy of welcoming local school groups to Schmitt’s historic home and studio in Silvermine, Connecticut.  These visits are less of a tour through a museum than an invitation into a home and a glimpse into a life.  While enjoying a drawing lesson in the studio, students learn about the artistic practices and innovations of the artist.  Over a cup of tea, students experience a taste of Schmitt’s family life while sitting around a well-used kitchen table. 

What is the aim of these school trips?  To introduce students to a radically different way of life.  To impart to children the story and example of Carl Schmitt, an artist who lived not for comfort or material success but for Beauty: Beauty in paintings and family life but also in hardship and suffering.

These school visits are only made possibly by your generosity; we hope to have many more.  Thank you for your support!

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Inaugural art class “Truth in Drawing” and the feast of St. Joseph at the CSF studios

Last week a class of thirty joined CSF Artist-in-Residence Andrew de Sa at the Carl Schmitt Studios for a course entitled “Truth in Drawing: How to Draw with Your Eyes, Not with Your Head.”  The group of local middle school girls also got a look at the art and sketchbooks and journals in the studios, explored Carl Schmitt’s house, and heard a bit about his life and work before crowning the afternoon with a celebration of the Feast of St. Joseph.
After the Opening Tour, everyone settled into the working studio and Andrew brought out his easel.  Using an apple as his subject, he began with a drawing demonstration.  The students then set about their work, each attempting, with some coaching from Andrew, to capture the “realness,” the peculiarities, the roundness, and the light upon the apples in front of them.
When they had put their signatures on their first drawings, the students headed to the house of Carl and Gertrude (“Mamo”) Schmitt.  In Mamo’s charming flagstone-floor kitchen they piped ricotta cheese filling into their homemade St. Joseph zeppole, which they enjoyed with a cup or two of tea.  Back upstairs in Carl and Gertrude’s living room they gathered around the Schmitt family’s statue of the Infant of Prague, the same shrine where the family would pray each night for the safe return of Schmitt’s sons from war.
Because it was the Feast of St. Joseph (March 19), the Infant was joined by a little St. Joseph statue from the family’s nativity set, made by the artist’s son David when he was a boy.  Around the statue we placed homemade shaped breads for a little “St. Joseph Table” of our own.  There, we sang songs in honor of St. Joseph and songs for the season of Lent, including the lovely Italian hymn “Glory be to Jesus“.  We closed with a prayer to the Holy Infant and the Litany of St. Joseph to ask his special protection for all of our fathers.

Detail of Carl Schmitt’s pastel of his family’s statue of the Infant of Prague, traditionally invoked for protection in time of war.

After a supper of homemade minestrone soup and our St. Joseph bread, we gathered all of the donations that the girls brought for the needy who visit the Merton Center, a local food pantry.  In all a wonderful afternoon with a truly remarkable, energetic, and fun group of girls and their mothers, and the first of many courses and events at the CSF Home and Studios.

“Portrait of the Artist as an Unknown Man” – WAG Mag profiles Carl Schmitt and the CSF

A great profile of Carl Schmitt and the Foundation from WAG Magazine.

“When viewed from Borglum Road in Wilton’s Silvermine section, the Carl Schmitt Foundation is easy to miss . . . But when the doors of the three structures are opened, the visitor enters a vastly different world.”

Carl Schmitt Christmas cards now for sale

Beautiful Christmas cards featuring paintings of Carl Schmitt are now for sale.  Each 4¼” x 5½” card is printed on 130 lb. paper with a premium high-gloss finish.  Matching white vellum envelopes with a self-adhesive flap are included with your order, which benefits the Foundation.

2014 Christmas card images

left to right: Blue Madonna, Dalmatian Mother, and Nativity

And don’t forget—our handsome coffee-table book, Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty, our collection of Schmitt’s essays, The Conscience of Beauty, and museum-quality prints of selected works of Schmitt are also available and make wonderful gifts for Christmas.

Gertrude Catherine Schmitt, 1932-2018

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Gertrude Catherine Schmitt passed away peacefully at the home of her niece just past midnight on Wednesday, September 26, 2018.  Gertrude was born August 24, 1932, in Norwalk Hospital, the tenth child and only daughter of artist Carl Schmitt and his wife Gertrude.  Hers was the only birth recorded in her Father’s extensive journals, which after nine boys, struck the artist as a humorous turn of events.  “With the arrival of a daughter!  The world is a desert of petty literalness.  One should contribute some tragedy, some romance, and some heroism, but best of all, some comic relief.”

A fine artist in her own right, Gertrude was always content to live in her father’s shadow.  “I wanted to be an artist from babyhood because my father was an artist,” she remarked.  Her dear friend Ray Kelly spoke about “Papa Schmitt” being especially amused that, although his nine sons picked up on his theories of art — one being that painting is historically a masculine skill — none of them took up fine art as their life’s work.  Only his daughter devoted herself entirely to painting, and her father was delighted to find she was a true artist. “Gertrude is doing some beautiful painting,” her father wrote to a friend in the early 1960s, “she is very talented.” He said he was as proud of her as he could be of any son. “My Father and brothers painted with their heads,” she would later remark. “I paint with my eyes.”

Gertrude, c. 1940, oil on hardboard, 12 x 10 in.

Gertrude’s early memories of her childhood in Silvermine are full of her nine brothers.  At the age of five, she was taken with her family to Italy to be near her Father who had been sent to take the air at a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Italian Alps.  After a summer in Florence, the family moved to Rome for the school year 1938-39, where their father joined them.  Gertrude remembered playing in the fountains of Rome while waiting for her Mother to walk her home from the school she attended just off St. Peter’s Square.  Gertrude retained a vivid memory of Il Duce’s Blackshirts marching about the city.

Gertrude Schmitt, Nativity Triptych, oil on canvas, approx. 3 x 6 feet. Arnold Hall Conference Center, Pembroke, Massachusetts.

In the summer of 1939, with war clouds gathering in Europe, the family had decided to return home. They booked passage for September 29, but war broke out the first of that month. Then, just days before leaving, her mother was taken seriously ill and had to be hospitalized. Gertrude’s Father stayed on in Rome with her Mother while the rest of the family set sail with 19-year-old Robert in charge of his younger siblings, overseeing their distribution among a number of families in Wilton and New Canaan until Gertrude and Carl could return around Thanksgiving.

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Gertrude in Riding Uniform, 1942, oil on canvas, 32 x 19 in.
Ten-year-old Gertrude poses proudly in the uniform of the New Canaan Mounted Troop.

Of the tense homeward voyage on the steamship Saturnia, she recalled the curious sound of the water as the ship idled at Gibraltar while it was briefly detained and boarded by some officers of a British destroyer.  Safely home in Silvermine, she began school again in earnest, taking piano lessons and learning horsemanship with the New Canaan Mounted Troop.  She attended the Country School in New Canaan, Georgetown School of the Arts, and New Canaan High School, finishing at Miss Thomas’s School in Rowayton.

Gertrude, c.1945, oil on hardboard, 18 × 15 in.

Gertrude went on to the National Academy of Design in New York City, winning the prestigious Hallgarten Traveling Scholarship for three years’ study abroad.  At the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, she learned little from her professors but much from following her Father’s advice to study directly the work of the masters.  She made the most of her time there, spending days studying the great masterpieces and many evenings at the opera.

Upon her return to the family home in Silvermine, Miss Schmitt taught sport and all subjects at the Country School in New Canaan.  She also took up the violin, playing in the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra alongside her brother Robert, a flutist, for many years.

Gertrude and her father at the exhibit at Waveny House, New Canaan, Connecticut, fall 1980.

As her parents grew older, Gertrude, with the help of her brother Robert, dedicated herself entirely to caring for them both, and to painting.  She set up her easel in the family’s living room where a large north-facing window offered the best light.  In the fall of 1980, Gertrude and Carl staged a father-daughter exhibition at Waveny House in New Canaan.  “Gertrude has been touched by her father’s artistic vision and influenced by his philosophy of art and religion,” an article on the event noted.  “The spiritual and aesthetic permeate both of their works and their lives. Here religion and art are perfectly integrated.  Their art is much like their lives, not rushed, but carefully and thoughtfully achieved.”

Gertrude Schmitt, Still Life with Apples, oil on canvas, 21 x 28 in.

Gertrude continued to play music and paint, exhibiting at local shows. Prizes and commissions allowed her to travel abroad: a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with her brother Robert and several trips to Europe.  Her keenly observant eye is reflected in the lovely sketches and pastels she made along the way.  She took one last trip to fulfill a commission for the Benedictine Monks of Norcia in central Italy: an altar diptych of the life of St. Benedict.

Gertrude Schmitt, Puente San Martin, Toledo, pastel on paper, 16 x 21 in.

Upon her Father’s death in 1989 at one hundred years of age, Gertrude received the family home and studio as a gift of thanks for her years of care.  She in turn, gave the property to the Carl Schmitt Foundation after its founding in 1996.  She cared for Robert until his death this past summer at the age of 98.

Known for her quick wit and her ability to see and to paint the transcendent beauty of the created world, Gertrude died as she lived, selfless to the last.

Girl with Necklace, c. 1945, oil on canvas, 15 x 18 in.
Gertrude is clasping a necklace of Mexican silver, a gift of her brother Robert. She often remarked that of all the portraits her father painter of her, this was her favorite.

A retrospective exhibit of Gertrude Schmitt’s works will take place on Sunday, October 7, 2018, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at the home of her niece and nephew, Margaret and William Skidd, 44 Fox Run Road, Norwalk, Connecticut. The show will feature works in oil, watercolor and pastel, some well-beloved, many newly discovered — the fruit of decades of work, collected and shown together for the first time.  For tickets, please click here.