Schmitt, Carl (1889-1989)
Carl Schmitt was born in Warren, Ohio on May 6, 1889. His father was a musician and music teacher, and both parents encouraged the young Schmitt’s talent in art. Zell Hart Deming, owner of the Warren Chronicle, recognized his talent in her salons for writers and artists, and when he was seventeen, she bankrolled his studies in New York. Schmitt first attended the Chase School in 1906 and took classes from William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri, founder of the Ashcan School of Artists. In 1907 he entered the National Academy of Design to study under Emil Carlsen. After he graduated from the Academy, he went to study in Florence, Italy with the help of Zell Hart Deming. In 1913-1914 he studied at the Academy of Fine Design under Mathias Duval and discovered the Italian artists of the Renaissance. In 1916 Schmitt established a studio in New York and discussed his ideas of art with Deming’s nephew, writer Hart Crane, Conrad Aiken, Van Wyck Brooks, and movie pioneer Robert Flaherty. Schmitt was especially interested in the relationship between poetry and painting. From this intellectual interchange came Schmitt’s ideas and aesthetic theories about which he wrote in essays throughout his notebooks. Schmitt soon tired of the hectic pace of city life and made the decision to move to Silvermine in Norwalk, Connecticut. He married and bought an 18thcentury stone structure which required renovation across from the sculptor Solon Borglum. The two became friends and co-founded the Silvermine Guild of Artists.
Since his childhood, Schmitt had been fighting tuberculosis, and after a harsh reoccurrence of the disease, he entered a sanatorium in the Italian Alps. His wife and ten children accompanied him to Italy. He loved the country and admired Michaelangelo, and he decided to remain there as an expatriate painter. However, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini forced him to return with his family to the United States in 1939. With the help of his wife’s father, Schmitt built a new home in Silvermine. He illustrated the book Higher than the Wind Can Blow by A.F. Wilson. During the Depression he first worked for the Public Works for Art Project and then for the WPA Federal Arts Project for a few months in 1936. During that period he created 14 large pieces of art for various public institutions. His work was allocated to Cedarcrest Sanatorium, Undercliff Sanatorium, Green School in Manchester, State Teachers College in New Haven, West Hartford Schools, and Connecticut National Guard Aviation Hangar. Schmitt died on October 25, 1989, on his 71st wedding anniversary at the age of 100.
Sources: WPA Artist’s Work Card; WPA Biography; AskART; The best source for information about Carl Schmitt is the Carl Schmitt Foundation’s web page at http://carlschmitt.org.
Works of Art Listed in CT Archives’ database from Carl Schmitt:
|Flowers in Brass Pot:||oil|
|Still Life with Statuette:||oil|