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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Richard Schmid

Richard Schmid in his studio. working from his plein air study. (Lower left)Schmid
at one of his workshops demonstrating alla prima portrait techniques.
Richard Schmid Self-portrait
Having explored the work and legends of eastern European artist to quite some extent during the past few weeks, let me today give due credit to an American painting master every bit their counterpart. His name is Richard Schmid, and if you've not heard of him, or seen his work, or perhaps read his book Alla Prima, then you've probably not an oil painter. His book is considered one of the most comprehensive instructional art books on the market. And if you're pretending to know what "alla Prima" means (but don't), it's a method of painting in which pigments are laid on in a single application instead of being built up in repeated layers (as in glazing). In other words, it means, "get it right the first time" then leave it the hell alone.

Blue Cottage, Richard Schmid
Schmid's nudes are always warm, luscious,
seductive, and not always as demure as this one.
As his highly expressive self-portrait (above, left) would suggest, Richard Schmid is getting to be quite an old man. He was born in 1934, which would make him eighty-one next month (October, 2015). I'm not sure if he still conducts painting workshops, but if his self-portrait is any indication, he still paints. I love his work, but more than that, I deeply respect an artist who has the breadth and depth of talent to be equally adept at virtually any subject matter. Whether portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, florals, figures, even animals (cats are a favorite), Schmid can and does do it all with the same panache and painterly brushwork that has been the hallmark of his long, illustrious career. As Schmid's Blue Cottage (above) demonstrates, the artist goes to the source and not only paints alla prima but in plein air. Of course, the weather in this scene would suggest, he doesn't always do both at the same time.

I have a "weakness" for winter landscapes, which are one of Schmid's greatest strengths.
Inside secret: though espousing plein air painting, most of Schmid's landscapes are completed in his studio using both onsite studies and photos.
Guitarist, Richard Schmid
Born in Chicago at the height of the Great Depression, Schmid's first influence was his maternal grandfather, Julian Oates, an architectural sculptor (back at a time when they would decorate buildings with nude sculptural figures). Under the tutelage of the classically trained William H. Mosby, Schmid began studying figure drawing and anatomy at the age of twelve at Chicago's American Academy of Art (which must have been quite "stimulating" for a twelve-year-old boy). Mosby was a graduate of the Belgian Royal Academy and a technical expert on European and American realism. He taught exclusively from life, starting with the conceptual and technical methods of the Flemish, Dutch, and Spanish masters, the emphasis in each period always being alla prima.

Molly, Richard Schmid. Some of his most sensitive portraits are actually oil sketches.
Rose and Nancy, Richard Schmid
Schmid completed his training as a Realist painter at a bad time--the mid-1950s--when the style was very much out of vogue. Nonetheless, throughout the second-half of the 20th-century Schmid kept alive the knowledge he received from Mosby and from Mosby’s friends, including such painting luminaries as John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas. However, Richard's style and content became his own. A gifted teacher himself, Schmid has generously shared this knowledge through his books and by mentoring young artists. His latest book, Alla Prima II: Everything I Know About Painting, and More, suggests a Grand Master with a immodest, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Needless to say, Schmidt's list of shows, awards, dis-tinctions, and students goes far beyond any reasonable mentioning here. The paintings, such as the portrait of his wife, Nancy (below), speak for themselves.

Nancy, Richard Schmid--his wife and fellow artist, Nancy Guzik.
Yorkshire Chickens, Richard Schmid





























 

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