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Richard Schmid: A Retrospective

September 7 through October 19, 2003


This exhibition includes sixty-six of Schmid's original works dating from 1962 to 2002. Many of the works included in the catalogue and in the exhibition are on loan to the Butler Institute courtesy of distinguished private collections. Thus this exhibition offers a rare opportunity for art lovers to see works that are rarely available to the public. (right: : Richard Schmid, Miss Anderson, 1971, oil on canvas, 16 x 12 inches. Private Collection. Image © Richard Schmid.)


Richard Schmid

Catalogue Introduction


Richard Schmid has long been deemed an "artist's artist." What greater recognition exists than to be revered by one's peers. Artists who have earned this most honored designation in the history of art have been those whose unique talents have inspired and indeed challenged their contemporaries. Richard Schmid has done this. This exhibition, which presents a capsulized view of his remarkable career, reveals without doubt that Schmid ranks among the elite painters of the narrative tradition.

The most admired of painters through time have possessed what is often described as an ability to "handle the medium." We immediately bring to mind the masterful paint handling of such enormous talents as Frans Hals, Turner, and Sargent. The art of these monumental talents is characterized by a complete and total understanding of how and why paint behaves as it does. They knew, as few before them, that the sure handling of the medium was as essential as the idea being conveyed. Their comprehension that the power of art to amplify life and reveal hidden beauty is dependent upon the artist's virtual oneness with the medium, and his ability to intuitively deliver paint to canvas with an absolute confidence. Ultimately, it is this gift which Richard Schmid has been given. In fact, each painting asks the viewer to look beyond the obvious into the formal world of this master of the medium of paint. To look-to really look, is to be rewarded.

But the brilliance of Schmid's painting moves beyond technical facility. As in all significant art, his paintings are not mere replications of nature. Their effectiveness relies as much on what is implied or indicated as on what is directly portrayed. He chooses not to tell the whole story in favor of encouraging his viewers to carry to the work, both visually and conceptually, their own experiences. The great artists have done this and none more successfully than John Singer Sargent. Like Sargent, Schmid constructs his imagery through a complex network of painterly markings and pigment overlays. The viewer becomes immersed in the visual complexity of the artist's process and thus becomes engaged with the work. His paintings are not about the superficial retelling of the obvious but rather are about the revelation of that wonderful magic which is nature and of course man's interaction with it.

In the end, great art is not about the repetition of what is already known. Great and lasting art reveals the unknown in ways that dazzle and delight us. The paintings of Richard Schmid do just this.

Louis A. Zona
The Butler Institute of American Art


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