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Albert H. Schmidt: Lost and Found in Santa Fe

July 31 - October 24, 2004




As part of its 2004 series of exhibitions focusing on the centennial of the Santa Fe Art Colony, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, features Albert H. Schmidt: Lost and Found in Santa Fe, from July 31 to October 24, 2004. This exhibition is drawn from the Museum's 207-piece Schmidt collection, given since 1992 by the artist's granddaughter, Karen Schmidt, of Tesuque, New Mexico. The Museum is the largest public repository in the United States for Schmidt's work. (left: Albert H. Schmidt, Pojoaque Mill, (New Mexico Mill), circa  1942, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches)

Following the 1958 memorial retrospective of Albert Schmidt's work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, his widow, Marjorie Schmidt, took her husband's work off public view and his work was lost to collectors and historians. With Marjorie Schmidt's death in 1992, her granddaughter Karen Schmidt, a Chicago broadcasting executive, inherited the Schmidt estate. In a room off the garage at the Schmidt ranchito at Tesuque, Karen Schmidt discovered it "filled with [her] grandfather's paintings." "Some were framed; other canvases were stacked in piles. Many of the pastels and watercolors were folded and damaged beyond repair," Karen Schmidt recalled. [1] She contacted Santa Fe dealer Gerald Peters and after extensive conservation, the Gerald Peters Gallery held the first major exhibition of Schmidt's work in 35 years in November 1993. Albert Schmidt's lost works had been found. (right: Albert H. Schmidt, Fall Scene)

The son of a Chicago doctor, Albert Herman Schmidt (1885-1957) attended the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), studying with John H. Vanderpoel and Charles F. Browne. After four years at the AIC, Schmidt began exhibiting there in 1908, continuing through 1924. Like most of his peers at the time, he sought further study in Europe, choosing the Academie Julian in Paris, a school especially popular with Americans. Schmidt also studied paintings all over Europe, from the Old Masters to the Fauves. He met and married fellow art student and Chicagoan Marjorie Hanson in Paris in 1912.

The Schmidts returned to the United States during the height of American Impressionism and just before the famous Armory Show in 1913. His oil and pastel paintings of the time display the lessons he learned from French Impressionism in terms of style, approach, and subject matter. Schmidt exhibited one of his French landscapes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1911 and another painting at the National Academy of Design in 1914, thereby following the proscribed path for most American artists seeking official sanction. He also represented Illinois at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco (1915) along with 46 other artists.[2] (right: Albert H. Schmidt, Untitled  (Canoncito Church), n.d., oil on board, 16 1/4 x 20 inches)

Schmidt traveled to New Mexico and Arizona in 1921 and after visiting Santa Fe determined to move there. The timing of his move is significant, as Los Cinco Pintores had exhibited for the first time the previous fall and the Taos Society of Artists began to disintegrate that summer. [3] The following year (1923) saw the formation of "The New Mexico Painters."[4] Perhaps even more important for Schmidt was the presence in Santa Fe of several Chicago transplants whom he had known in Chicago. [5]

With his wife's modest inheritance, Schmidt avoided the pressures to constantly market his work to make a living. Therefore he painted when or if he wanted and was free to experiment. A disciple of Dynamic Symmetry, Schmidt considered "design the only truly creative art, and [in New Mexico] he finds it in abundance suggested by the austere hills, the winding valleys and the native people inhabiting the country." [6] (right: Albert H. Schmidt, City Lights, n.d., pastel on paper, 14 x 19 inches)

Schmidt's exhibition record after 1922 is impressive. From 1924 through 1957, he exhibited in the group annual at the Museum of Fine Arts (except 1926) and was often on the annual's hanging committee. Schmidt also exhibited in other group exhibitions at the MFA from 1924 to 1955. The "First Traveling Show of New Mexico Artists," which toured the country in 1941 and 1942 included Schmidt's work. [7] He also participated in the state-wide traveling exhibition circuits sponsored by the Museum of New Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also had 12 solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts between 1928 and 1958, including two each in 1945 and 1949, and a solo exhibition that toured New Mexico in 1945.

Schmidt's work is in many major private and public collections throughout the country including the Albuquerque Museum; the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe; the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association in Chicago. Currently, Schmidt paintings are on exhibit at the American Embassy at the Vatican and recently at the embassy in Prague. (right: Albert H. Schmidt, Still Life with Plaid Table cloth (retro of Flowers in Vase), circa 1935, oil on board, 32 1/4 x 26 inches)

Following the rediscovery of his work and the Gerald Peters Gallery's exhibition, New Mexico, Southwest Art, and the Santa Fe Reporter featured Schmidt and his work. The Santa Fe New Mexican called the two events one of Santa Fe's top ten stories of the 1990s. And, the Peters Gallery hosted another Schmidt exhibition in 2001.

"Although an early Santa Fe painter, my grandfather and his work dropped from the public eye for over 35 years. So, when I inherited his work I felt obligated to reacquaint people with his contributions to New Mexico art," said Karen Schmidt. "I knew of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum's commitment to important New Mexico art and felt it was an excellent place for my grandfather's work. After the first two paintings were gladly accepted and exhibited by the Museum, I was compelled to make an even larger gift," she added. This exhibition offers selections from the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum's Schmidt Collection given over the past 12 years by Karen Schmidt. We hope visitors to the exhibition will find Albert Schmidt's work compelling and take those impressions with them so his work will not be lost again to Santa Fe's art history.


1. Michael R. Grauer, "Albert Schmidt: Rediscovered," Southwest Art (March 1996): 52.

2. Including Jozef Bakos, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, Willard Nash, and Will Shuster.

3. Founder W. Herbert Dunton resigned from the TSA, which prompted other changes in subsequent years.

4. The New Mexico Painters were: Frank Applegate, Jozef Bakos, Gustave Baumann, Ernest Blumenschein, Andrew Dasburg, Randall Davey, William P. Henderson, Victor Higgins, Walter Mruk, B. J. O. Nordfeldt, Olive Rush, John Sloan, Walter Ufer, and Theodore Van Soelen. The group lasted from 1923 to 1927. For the most recent scholarship on the NMP see Robert R. White et. al., The New Mexico Painters (Santa Fe: Gerald Peters Gallery, 1999).

5. Gustave Baumann, William P. Henderson, and B. J. O. Nordfeldt, as well as several others in Taos; in fact, Henderson may have invited Schmidt initially.

6. Ina Sizer Cassidy, "Art and Artists of New Mexico," New Mexico Magazine (December 1931): 42.

7. Sites included Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Nelson Gallery, Kansas City; Philbrook Art Museum; Philadelphia Art Alliance; Rochester (NY) Memorial Gallery; and Vose Galleries, Boston.

RLM Editor's note: RLM readers may also enjoy: The Pictoral Record of the Old West: the Beginning of the Taos School of Art, an essay by Robert Taft; Painters in Taos, New Mexico Prior to 1940; Taos Society of Artists, an article by Sarah Beserra; "New Deal" Art in New Mexico, an article by Kathryn Flynn; How the Santa Fe Art Colony Began, an article by Suzanne Deats.

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rev. 7/29/04

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