Foundation seeks to preserve, perpetuate artistic legacy
Tucked away in the Silvermine section of Wilton is a 1.6-acre property at 30 Borglum Road with roots in Wilton’s artistic history — the former home and studio of American artist Carl Schmitt (1889-1989).
In 1996, one of Schmitt’s sons, Carl Schmitt Jr., established The Carl Schmitt Foundation at the property, with the goal of perpetuating the art, life, and legacy of his father, and providing a place for people to learn more about the man behind the artworks. Today, the foundation’s president and executive director is Samuel Schmitt, grandson of the late artist.
Carl Schmitt was an artist of various mediums — from oils and pastels to pencils — and his subjects ranged from still lifes and portraits to landscapes and religious works. Schmitt also wrote essays on ideas and aesthetic theories.
Schmitt painted “one color at a time” and “only painted with natural light,” said Andrew de Sa, a native of the Washington, D.C. area who has been The Carl Schmitt Foundation’s artist-in-residence since late August. (De Sa’s work can be seen in the River Road Gallery’s latest exhibition.)
The importance of natural light to Schmitt’s work is evident in the design of his former studio on Borglum Road, which features a large skylight designed to let in north light — a natural light without direct sun that doesn’t create sharp shadows.
Schmitt’s former studio been been renovated to serve as a research center and gallery and was recently opened up to the public
In addition to a large collection of Schmitt’s paintings, pastels, and drawings, the property’s working and library studios also house essays, studio notes, photos, and correspondence.
De Sa said Schmitt kept “extensive notebooks and sketchbooks” that provide “an intimate view” into Schmitt’s life.
“I love looking at these. They’re a real treasure,” he said. “He kept these journals with just these beautiful reflections, prayers — anything that was just in his mind.”
With its collection of notebooks, de Sa said, The Carl Schmitt Foundation is “hoping to bring members of the public a “glimpse into who [Schmitt] was as an artist.”
About the artist
Schmitt moved to New York from his home state of Ohio at the age of 17 and attended The Chase School from 1906 to 1912.
His grandson, Samuel, said Schmitt’s first time in Silvermine was actually in 1908, when he “exhibited for the first time with the Silvermine Group of Artists — forerunner of the Silvermine Guild — in 1910.”
In 1913, Schmitt transferred to the National Academy of Design, where he studied under American Impressionist painter Emil Carlsen. After the academy, he painted in New York and Ohio before spending a year in Florence, Italy, studying under French anatomy and histology professor Mathias Duval at the Academy of Fine Arts. He then set up a studio in New York in 1916, and married Gertrude Lord (1891-1982) two years later.
Longing for a quieter life, Schmitt bought an acre of land in Silvermine with a ruined 18th-Century stone structure across the road from American sculptor Solon Borglum in 1919 — “just houses down the street” from 30 Borglum Road, said de Sa.
During his time in Silvermine, Schmitt befriended Borglum and became one of the founding members of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in 1922.
In 1938, however, Schmitt had a severe bout of tuberculosis and entered a sanatorium in the Italian Alps. His wife and 10 children followed him there, but with the start of World War II, the family moved back to Silvermine in 1939.
With the help of his father-in-law — a prominent architect named Austin W. Lord — Schmitt had a new home, with outbuildings, built for his family at present-day 30 Borglum Road. According to de Sa, Schmitt lived on the property for much of the remainder of his life.
One of The Carl Schmitt Foundation’s goals is to “educate the public and artists on the role of beauty in everyday life and the artistic vocation,” according to the foundation’s website.
As part of that mission, de Sa said, the foundation hopes to turn 30 Borglum Road into a place where artists, art lovers, and others cannot only visit and enjoy, but learn, practice, and hone their crafts.
“We really want to focus on the personal aspect [and] this place as a place. We want to [create] this kind of intimate gathering place for artists to come and talk about art and have a support for the arts,” said de Sa.
“We want a very familial setting, because when the Schmitts were here, it was obviously very familiar with 10 children. It was home, and to provide that for artists would be a really cool service.”
People may schedule an appointment to visit The Carl Schmitt Foundation’s studio-gallery by emailing de Sa at firstname.lastname@example.org.