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.

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Fairfield County Giving Day is March 1st—Give where you live

Fairfield County Giving Day starts at midnight tonight!  It’s your chance to help the CSF spread the word about the rich legacy of Carl Schmitt, wherever you live.

If you enjoy Wisdom on Wednesdays, our books, and annual open house, please pitch in!

Support “locally sourced” art tomorrow, March 1st.  Thank you!

More gifts for Christmas from the CSF

In addition to the gifts we mentioned yesterday, the CSF is offering its stunning coffee-table book Carl Schmitt: Vision of Beauty at 25% off the regular price.  Shipping and handling are free for this special offer.  See a preview of selected pages here.

Order your copies now in time for Christmas!  Each book that you purchase benefits the Carl Schmitt Foundation.

Click Here to Purchase The Vision of Beauty

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The CSF is also pleased to offer museum-quality reproductions of works by Carl Schmitt in partnership with RequestAPrint, a leading producer of art prints to museums across the country.

RequestAPrint uses state-of-the-art ultra-giclee printers on semi-gloss heavyweight paper or medium weight fine art canvas. The prints are available in any size and in variety of frame styles. Here is just a sample of the paintings offered:

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Click here to go to the RequestAPrint gallery and order your prints.

Finally, don’t forget your own Christmas cards if you haven’t ordered them yet! (They make great thank-you cards, too.)

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As always, your purchase benefits the Carl Schmitt FoundationThank you!

Order these unique gifts from the CSF now in time for Christmas

This year the CSF is offering a number of unique gifts for Christmas: Carl Schmitt greeting cards, a collection of Schmitt’s writings, The Conscience of Beauty, and a pictorial history of the place he called home, Silvermine.

Carl Schmitt cards make a wonderful present for anyone on your list. They also make great thank-you cards.CSF21101_card

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The new book of Carl Schmitt’s essays, The Conscience of Beauty, is now available through Amazon.com. If you have enjoyed our weekly Wisdom on Wednesdays, you’ll find this new collection a richly rewarding experience.

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In these short essays Schmitt has gathered and distilled the fruits of his contemplation over a long lifetime, revealing a man whose words on paper are as remarkable as his work on canvas. The artist offers a fresh perspective on such topics as art, culture, personality, mythology, and history, all informed by the far-reaching perspective introduced in The Vision of Beauty. Along the way he touches on more immediate concerns of the media, respectability, large families, and fatherhood with his unerring sense of irony and wry humor.

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You can see a preview of the book (including a complete table of contents) here.

Through dozens of historic photographs the new book Silvermine tells the story of the bucolic hamlet Carl Schmitt called home for over 70 years. CSF director Samuel Schmitt recounts how the picturesque valley, once buzzing with sawmills, was transformed into a cultural hub with the coming of the artists, including Carl Schmitt, who formed the Silvermine Guild in 1922.

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Silvermine is part of the well-known “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing.  See a preview and order here from Amazon.com.

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This large boulder in front of the old Borglum place on Borglum Road was the site of many birthday parties and other get-togethers in Silvermine over the years. Through fascinating images such as this, the new book captures Silvermine’s rich social, artistic, and cultural life during the heyday of the artists’ colony in the first half of the last century.

And remember, all of your purchases benefit the Carl Schmitt Foundation.

Come to the Carl Schmitt Foundation’s 2017 Annual Open House

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Peter, c. 1940, oil on canvas, 15 x 10 in.

Join us Saturday, November 11, 2017, from 12 noon to 3 pm at the studio-gallery in Silvermine, 30 Borglum Road, Wilton, Connecticut (see directions below).

We’d be delighted to see you there!

Gertrude Knitting, c. 1970, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.

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 (#30) are the third driveway on your right.

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Three Children with Toys, oil on canvas, c. 1926, 30 x 36 in.
“The lyric mood must be kept at all costs and preserved from the terrible enmity of active life,” Carl Schmitt wrote in his journal in December, 1924. “The spirit of the times and of our country is dead against that leisure without which true Religion and true art can not flourish.”