From the archives: “An artist with a distinctly individualistic manner of looking at things”

CSF12302 - from slide

Annunciation, c. 1922, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.

Carl Schmitt’s one-man show at the prestigious Philadelphia Art Alliance in March, 1930, came at a crossroads in his career.  At the time the artist was moving away from his signature “tapestry” style into more religious and “mystical” themes.  Many of the paintings display an experimental, even unsure hand, venturing into imaginative realms not explored by the artist before and rarely visited in later work.  This bold move, while attracting favorable critical attention, followed the old pattern and did not help his lackluster sales, but demonstrates once again Schmitt’s commitment to the demands of his art in the face of economic pressures.  Of course, the recent market crash made misers of even the wealthiest patrons, and the show failed to yield a single sale, although a few of the paintings would find buyers in the subsequent months.  (Some remain lost to this day.)

The following two reviews are typical of the ones Schmitt received in this period.  The critics are clearly fascinated with his work.  Here is a painter they can’t quite pin down: is he a realist or idealist?  Traditionalist or individualist?  His approach is decidedly contemporary, yet he seems impervious to any particular modern influence.  While many pointed to the old Italian masters as the main source of his inspiration, others identify Byzantine art or peasant and primitive influences.  The headline to one review neatly summed up the critics’ response: “Old but New.”

While noting his use of color, his unusual imagination, and the lively rhythm and patterns in his canvasses,  the critics fail to put their finger on Schmitt’s overall purpose and approach.  At a basic level, they confess confusion with Schmitt’s claim to be a “realist” when so many of his works strike the eye as purely imaginative, even fanciful.  One critic came near to Schmitt’s understanding when he described him as a painter who uses “the language of the inner eye.”  Schmitt explained himself to the critics: “Several people have complained that they cannot understand my pictures and have asked if I would explain them.  This lack of understanding never fails to surprise me, as I try to paint only what I see as exactly and clearly as possible.  I think pictures are meant to be looked at.  If there is a secret—the eye must comprehend it.”

CSF12009

Madonna in White, 1929, oil on masonite, 48¼ x 40 in.
One of two madonnas shown at the Art Alliance, the other being the lost work  Madonna in Orange.

“In the members’ room of the Art Alliance hangs a small collection of paintings by Carl Schmitt, an artist with a distinctly individualistic manner of looking at things.  Mr. Schmitt’s own theory regarding his methods is: “I try to paint only what I see as exactly and as clearly as possible.” This sounds like the creed of a confirmed realist, but this artist is nothing of the sort.  He is an idealist with a peculiar sense of color, given to religious subjects and apparently influenced by early Italian art.

“His pictures at the Art Alliance are mostly religious in subject matter.  His ‘Trinity: Decorationwhy ‘Trinity’ when apparently it represents only the Second Person, on the cross surrounded by angelsis almost Byzantine in feeling and very ornamental.  In it the color scheme is restrained, harmonious and satisfactory.  In others of his sacred group he contrasts magenta and light green in a way to put one’s teeth on edge.

13241 - Picnic - no border

A Picnic, 1927, oil on canvas, approx. 48 x 40 in.

“His ‘Picnic’ differs entirely from these other pictures. In it he shows a very modern group dining al fresco against a highly conventionalized landscape background, the general treatment reminding one of a modernized Botticelli.  The whole is very amusing and effective, a joyous little canvas.”

—”Individualism of Carl Schmitt,” Philadelphia Record, March 2, 1930

CSF12212 - Gethsemane Gold and Silver - CROPPED

Gethsemane Gold and Silver, c. 1930, oil on canvas, 30¼ x 25 in.
The unusual coloration of this work may offer some idea of look of the similar painting shown at the Art Alliance.  Critics often remarked on Schmitt’s powerful use of color in paintings of this period, particularly those of a “mystical” character.

“The art of Carl Schmitt, as seen in his one-man show at the Art Alliance, is the vivid expression of a highly individual and imaginative personality.

“Only one of the compositions, a small portrait sketch, is primarily realistic.  The emotional tempo of the artist seeks rather the realm of pure fancy, developing unusual color combinations and richly decorative compositions not unlike, in pigmental and design emphasis, the peasant art expressions of primitive peoples.

CSF12315 - Guardian Angel - CROPPED

Guardian Angel, c. 1929
 One of two angel paintings shown at the Art Alliance exhibition. A contemporary review described it as “an exquisitely simple portrait of a young girl,” which is “given its angelic quality by an unearthly light which plays about her features.”

“Schmitt covers every inch of space with color and design interest. He is especially sensitive to colors. In one composition which he titles ‘Gethsemane’ the moving folds of robes, of hills and sky are further intensified by the weird olive green and greenish-yellow pigmentation.

“Something of the design quality of peasant embroidery enters into the colors and pattern weaving of a highly imaginative Crucifixion, while, in the various imaginative compositions based upon the theme of the Annunciation, Schmitt combines the unusual in pigmentation with a certain basic purity of conception, lending to the figures portrayed the charm of the naïve.

12310 - Angel of the Resurrection - no border

Angel of the Resurrection, c. 1930, oil on canvas, 42 x 35 in.

“Those who consider Carl Schmitt’s art from an unrealistic viewpoint will find it eccentric. His figures often give the impression of brownish jointed wooden dolls.  As figures they are disappointing, but when considered as part of a larger rhythm, part of a moving pattern, they achieve a fuller meaning.

“The charm of Schmitt’s art lies in the richness of his imagination, its design quality, and its individual choice of pigments.  Coupled with this is an emotional reaction that never sinks to the level of the decadent.”

—Christian Science Monitor, March 15, 1930

Advertisements

Come to the Carl Schmitt Foundation’s 2014 Annual Meeting and Open House

This year’s meeting and open house will take place on Saturday, November 15, from 11:30 am to 3 pm at the studio-gallery in Silvermine, at 30 Borglum Road, Wilton, Connecticut (see directions below).

  • CSF acting president Samuel Schmitt will report on developments at the Foundation in the past year, including a new exhibition and some exciting future plans.
  • Copies of the book, Carl Schmitt: The Vision of Beauty will be available at 25% off.
  • New Christmas cards, featuring beautiful paintings by Carl Schmitt, will also be available for sale.  Your purchase of these cards as well as the book benefits the CSF.  Both are offered just in time for Christmas!
  • As always, there will be plenty of opportunity to catch up with family and friends at the luncheon following the meeting.

We’d be delighted to see you there!

CSF10006

Glass Platter, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.
Part of the exhibit On Canvas, Paper & Board—Works by The Silvermine Group of Artists shown this past year at the New Canaan Historical Society, and on view at the CSF studio-gallery in Silvermine.

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.

CSF13217

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.”

Don’t miss the opening wine and cheese reception in New Canaan tonight!

CSF23105

Untitled (Shack near the Silvermine River), pastel on paper, 14 x 11 in.
At the exhibition in New Canaan, Connecticut, opening tonight.

Works in a variety of media by Carl Schmitt will be featured in the new exhibit On Canvas, Paper & Board—Works by The Silvermine Group of Artists, opening this evening at 5 pm the New Canaan Historical Society in New Canaan, Connecticut.  For more information, click here.

We would be delighted to see you there!

CSF10006

Glass Platter, oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.
One of the two oil paintings by Carl Schmitt at the New Canaan exhibit.

New exhibit featuring Carl Schmitt opens May 22

The New Canaan Historical Society
invites you to The Silvermine Room Exhibition
On Canvas, Paper & Board—Works by The Silvermine Group of Artists
May 22–August 5, 2014
and to
an Opening Reception on Thursday, May 22 from 5 to 7 p.m.
at 13 Oenoke Ridge Road, New Canaan, Connecticut

CSF23000

Gertrude Sleeping, pastel on paper, 1914, 11 x 13 in.
Part of the exhibit On Canvas, Paper & Board—Works by The Silvermine Group of Artists opening May 22.

This exhibit is the latest in a series exploring the Silvermine Art Colony, known locally as The Silvermine Group of Artists or “The Knockers” (1908–1922).

On Canvas, Paper & Board—Works by The Silvermine Group of Artists focuses on the work of seven early Silvermine artists: Edmund M. Ashe, Solon Borglum, Helen Hamilton, Addison T. Millar, Charles Reiffel, Carl Schmitt, and Frederick Yohn.  A number of the works are being lent by the Carl Schmitt Foundation.

The exhibit highlights the different mediums in which these seven artists worked.  As professional artists, they were highly trained draftsmen capable of creating works in oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, and many were accomplished in printmaking and sculpture.

Carl Schmitt - One of the Streets - from Scribners magazine

One of the Streets, Korčula gum arabic print, approx. 24 x 19 in.
Originally published in Scribners Magazine, February, 1929. with the caption: “With the cathedral beyond, and Pelješac, the mountainous peninsula, in the background. Pelješac is the haunt of the few remaining jackals of Europe, whose bark can be heard at night across the waters of the Adriatic.”

The artwork is grouped by artist, giving the viewer the opportunity to compare and contrast, within one artist’s work, the similarities and differences that are imposed by the different mediums and the intended purpose of the art.  The layout encourages one to look at the work, style, and technique of each of the artists in comparison to the others.

The exhibition is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  There is a suggested donation of $3.00.  The Society is located at 13 Oenoke Ridge Road, New Canaan, Connecticut.  For more information, you may call 203.966.1776 or visit www.nchistory.org.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Please note: The hours of the exhibition given in a previous version of this post were incorrect.  We apologize for the error.

CSF34022

Tagliacozzo, pen and ink on paper, 1939, 20 x 15 in., signed “Carl Schmitt”, lower right.
Schmitt stayed in this town in the Abruzzo region of central Italy while recovering from tuberculosis in the late 1930s, capturing its beauty in a series of memorable drawings and paintings.