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.

Carl Schmitt Foundation’s inaugural symposium a success

Defining the Role of the Catholic Artist Today

On October 27th the Carl Schmitt Foundation hosted its inaugural Symposium in Sterling, Virginia. Organized jointly by CSF Creative Director Andrew de Sa and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, the event drew nearly 200 people, some driving as far as four hours to attend with others tuning into the livestream on the Foundation’s website.

“Defining the Role of the Catholic Artist Today” brought together five of today’s leading Catholic artists to discuss their own work as well as their understanding of the vocation of a Catholic artist today.

Andrew Wilson Smith brings over a decade of experience teaching and executing fine art projects for churches and institutions, and is the founding director of Four Crowns Atelier.

Henry Wingate is an oil painter who studied in the Boston School tradition of painting. He paints portraits primarily, but also figurative works, landscapes, and still lifes.

Dr. Timothy McDonnell is Director of Choral Studies and Head of the Institute of Sacred Music at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and a distinguished composer and choral conductor.

James Langley is an artist and professor of life drawing, and portraiture at Savannah College of Art and Design.  He paints by commission from his studio in Savannah, Georgia.

Will Seath is a designer with McCrery Architects of Washington, DC, who specializes in liturgical architecture.

The symposium was accompanied by an impressive exhibit of Carl Schmitt’s paintings, pastels, and drawings as well notebooks, writings, and objects from the artist’s studio.

Each artist offered a presentation of his work, ranging from an original choral composition to a recently erected cathedral and hand-carved archways for a Gothic-style monastery.  Through these presentations the audience was given a glimpse not only of the artists’ expertise but also their approach to living out their vocation as artists.  The exquisite works underlined their service to the Church and the importance of the Fine Arts.

A particularly moving moment came when renowned oil painter James Langley described his meeting with Carl Schmitt and the pivotal role the encounter had on his career.

Soren Johnson, Associate Director in the Office of Catechetics for the Diocese of Arlington, described the event as “the best interaction between the Faith and the Arts I have ever seen.”  Carl Schmitt, Jr., founder of the CSF and a son of the artist, was particularly moved, saying, “We heard from five different artists with five different backgrounds and mediums, but in each of the artists I saw a portrait of my Father.”

With the success of the inaugural Symposium, the Carl Schmitt Foundation is looking to expand the event in 2019.  Your support of the CSF is vital to offering opportunities like this for an encounter with the Fine Arts.  Such encounters, Schmitt believed, “serve to recall us to the fact that mystical religion is the vital force most deeply embedded in man from which springs all his most notable activity.”

Thank you for all your support during this exciting time for the Foundation!

This event is funded in part by a grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts / Department of Economic & Community Development.

Listen to “The Catholic Vision of Carl Schmitt” on SoundCloud

If you missed my talk on Carl Schmitt last month in New York, the audio is now available below and at SoundCloud.  It’s part of “Art of the the Beautiful” lecture series hosted by the Catholic Artists Society.

The talk explores Schmitt’s vision connecting the Catholic tradition to the seven fine arts and to the life of the artist himself.  As a young man, Schmitt saw what he had to do to realize this vision: a struggle for what he called the mystical virtues of purity, poverty, and humility, corresponding to the lyric, epic, and dramatic stages of his artistic development.  The fruit of this journey was a clear vision of things seen in the masterworks of his maturity.

You can follow the close discussion of some of Schmitt finest works by downloading the images here.

CSF Creative Director Andrew de Sa discusses Carl Schmitt in two new podcasts

CSF Creative Director Andrew de Sa sketches in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Our new Creative Director Andrew de Sa talks about Carl Schmitt and the upcoming Symposium on October 27 in interviews with CatholicCulture.org and the Arlington Catholic Herald.

The Symposium, hosted by the Carl Schmitt Foundation and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, will bring together leading artists and intellectuals to talk about the role and vocation of the Catholic artist today.  It will draw on the insights of Carl Schmitt to help “demystify the creative process.”

For more information and to register for the Symposium, click here.

Defining the Role of the Catholic Artist Today