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 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

Symposium on the Catholic Artist Today coming up October 27

Defining the Role of the Catholic Artist Today

The Carl Schmitt Foundation and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, are pleased to bring together some of today’s leading Catholic artists to explore what is means to be a Catholic artist in today’s society.  The life and legacy of Carl Schmitt, along with the insights of our panelists, will help us see what the lived-out vocation of an artist really looks like.  This is a rare opportunity to get a glimpse into the craft of professional artists, each of whom will be bringing an original work they have created to explain their creative process.

The event will take place on October 27, 2018, from 7-10 pm at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church, Sterling, Virginia (map); it is free and open to the public.  Click here to register and for more information.

Come early to view the retrospective exhibit Carl Schmitt: A Portrait before it goes on view at the Arts Club of Washington next month.

Can’t make it?  The event will be streamed live at

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

Gertrude Catherine Schmitt, 1932-2018


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.


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.