Two large paintings by Carl Schmitt are being offered at an auction this Sunday, March 10, 2019, by Clarke Auction Gallery in Larchmont, New York.
Muses Marooned and Palace of Septimius Severus were both originally owned Carl Schmitt’s longtime friend Harold Morton Landon. Landon was a successful stockbroker in New York with a wife and two children when he met Schmitt on a journey back to America from Europe in 1927.
A cultured man who translated Portuguese and Latin and boasted a fine collection of old master paintings, Landon became an avid “fan” of the younger artist. “I too have so few people in the world that I care about seeing, but few I love with an intense devotion,” he wrote Schmitt in August, 1932. “Seeing so much of you, Gertrude and Robert” – Schmitt’s wife and brother – “has made me appreciate you more each day, and has made me humble, realizing what a complete zero I am compared with any one of you. I always feel better after being with you!” Landon commissioned Schmitt to paint his fantastical St. Francis and the Unicorn around this time.
From the time they first met in 1927 until the early 1960s, Landon followed Schmitt’s career closely, seeing all the exhibitions he could and even helping to arrange shows for his friend with galleries in New York. Around 1930 he had Schmitt paint a portrait of his wife Frederica, who had formed a warm friendship with Carl’s wife Gertrude.
Over the years Landon bought or was given a number of works Schmitt, including Muses Marooned, which Landon saw at a large one-man show at Columbia University in 1936. Landon wrote to Schmitt that he considered this work “one of the best things you have ever done.”
Muses Marooned was first exhibited at the 33rd Carnegie International Exhibition in autumn, 1934. It was one of the last in a series of Schmitt’s “muse” paintings which includes Muses on the Mount, Muses in the Valley and The Muses Disagree (all 1921), The Holy Spirit and the Muse (1922), and Muses Marooned (two versions, 1934 and 1936). The painting is being offered with its original frame carved by Carl’s brother Robert in 1933.
In the early 1950s, Schmitt surprised Landon with a large painting of the Palace of Septimus Severus, based on sketches Schmitt had done while in Rome in the 1930s. In honor of the gift, Landon wrote a dedicatory poem which is still attached to the back of the frame.
Palace of Sepitimius Severus is an idealized depiction of the famous Roman ruin which mesmerized Schmitt on his visit to Rome in the mid-1930s and which he portrayed in numerous paintings, pastels, and watercolors. “Rome lives in the round,” he wrote upon seeing the impressive remnants of the once-grand imperial residence. “All sides of the ruin, on different levels, are interesting. And it is constructed, not poured. Even the vertical blind walls are arched with the peculiar thin Roman tile. That solid construction coupled with tremendous scale characterizes ancient Rome . . . there stood that bulk. I have never felt time so challenged.”