Carl Schmitt, Self-Portrait, 1915
My philosophy may be summed up thus:
First, to receive from God gratefully everything possible that I can get.
Second, to give back to God through my neighbor everything which I can give.
To give gifts to my neighbor I must use art, because a gift must be made—
hence I must be an artist. —Carl Schmitt, 1933
I would like to share with you how vitally important I think my grandfather’s life and work can be for anyone looking for beauty, meaning, and happiness in their lives. Carl Schmitt’s work and thought–his vision of art, his dedication to beauty, his wisdom about life–are truly extraordinary. I’m convinced that many people, perhaps without realizing it, are looking for such beauty and meaning, or, if they have already found it, they want to experience it more deeply. And this is what the Carl Schmitt Foundation is all about: to spread Schmitt’s wonderful legacy that has the potential to enrich the lives of many, many people.
I grew up surrounded by my grandfather’s art. My late father, Carl Schmitt’s seventh son John, acquired and borrowed numerous paintings and other works which held a fascination for me. I remember in particular the still lifes with their timeless serenity and a wonderful large painting of the Nativity–Joseph gazing in wonder at the approaching star and the Christ Child radiant in Mary’s arms.
The incredible life and struggle that went into producing such beauty was rather vague in my young mind. Naturally, my father spoke of his family and upbringing, but his father’s philosophy and views on life were passed on more by example and attitudes than by formal explanations.
Since coming to work for the Foundation full-time almost four-and-a-half years ago, I have formed a more comprehensive picture of what my grandfather was all about. I’ve delved into his notebooks, read hundreds of letters to and from his wife, parents, friends, patrons and fellow artists, perused press reports and reviews of exhibitions, read interviews and profiles in various newspapers, and organized hundreds of photographs of family and friends. This exploration of my grandfather’s life and thought has proven enlightening, exhilarating, sometimes perplexing, but always revealing and thought-provoking.
My own sense of my grandfather’s greatness has been confirmed by the dozens of emails and inquiries I’ve received from people all over the country and by the conversations I’ve had with many people about my grandfather at exhibits, talks, and other presentations sponsored by the Foundation. I have yet to come across a person who has not found Carl Schmitt’s art, life and thought exciting, revelatory, stunning. People tell me the tour of the studio was “marvelous,” that he was a “fascinating” figure. Those who have discovered his work via the website report being “totally bowled over;” the paintings are “inspired and very moving.” All of these testimonies urge me on to work harder to make his art, life, and thought better known.
If my grandfather had a “secret,” it was that he saw life as a gift—a gift received from God to be given back to him through other people. Within this dynamic, art played a vital role in his life, both as a gift received and returned. Schmitt’s gift to us is the tremendous legacy we see in his art, his thought, and finally in the generous life he led, a life in which he strived to give fully what he himself had been given.
Carl Schmitt, Nativity, c. 1926