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Food For Your Soul

Johann Schmitt (1825-1898)

Johann Schmitt (1825-1898) was born at Heinstadt, Baden in Germany. During his early years he applied his efforts to developing his talent in painting as well as music. Like many of his fellow Germans, at the close of the 1848 Revolution he immigrated to the United States. Arriving in New York, he spent several years studying art and earned his first commission by painting a series of religious pictures for the walls of St. Alphonsus Church. The freshness of his coloring and the purity of his designs at once secured for him other contracts, and he quickly rose to fame.

About 1867, the Benedictine priests recruited the artist to join the studio they had founded at St. Joseph’s Church in Covington, Ky. Schmitt immediately became interested in the progress of the Society of Christian Art, then existing in Cincinnati. At that time it had attracted some of the best talent of Europe. Among its members was William Lamprecht, president, and creator of the mural in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse at Mount St. Joseph. Johann Schmitt was also a teacher, and among his most prominent pupils was Frank Duveneck who often stopped at his studio to watch Schmitt paint, and who went on to become a prominent artist himself.

Soon after his arrival in Covington, Johann Schmitt began executing commissions for various churches and chapels. For the convent chapel of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore, he provided a beautiful painting representing the Sorrowful Mother receiving Jesus’ body as he is taken down from the cross. He also did the high altar piece of the Franciscan Church of the Holy Family at Oldenburg, Ind. Two large paintings, one The Death of St. Joseph, and the other, St. Joseph Protector of the Church, grace the walls of his parish church of St. Joseph. The latter is a replica of his masterpiece that he donated to Pope Leo XIII, which is in the Vatican. His five large murals in the Church of the Mother of God, represent the five joyful mysteries of the rosary. In addition to those mentioned, he produced many religious paintings and murals throughout the Midwest. 

Among his many commissions, Johann Schmitt executed many works with Franciscan themes. For this he is sometimes referred to as a Franciscan artist. One author said of him: “Johann Schmitt can truly be called a Franciscan artist for, like St. Francis, he loved the beautiful things of life, and for 35 years was a devout member of the Third Order of St. Francis. The God of Love, His Saints, and all things in nature that reflected the Divine Creator were ever uppermost in his mind.” The artist was a devout man with a special devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Mary, the Mother of Pure Love. He was generous to a fault, freely giving of his talent and his wealth, particularly to those in need. He is buried in Mother of God Cemetery in Latonia, Ky.

A partial listing of the locations and paintings of Johann Schmitt. [Many of these paintings are no longer extant as churches have been remodeled and tastes in art have changed.]:

St. Joseph Church, Covington, Ky.
The Death of St. Joseph
St. Joseph Protector of the Church

Vatican City, Rome
St. Joseph Protector of the Church

Mother of God Church, Covington, Ky.
Five murals representing the joyful mysteries of the rosary

St. John’s Church, Covington, Ky.
Five murals: The Crucifixion, The Transfiguration, The Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, St. John on the Island of Patmos, and The Sacred Heart

St. Joseph Church, Williamstown, Ky.
St. Joseph

St. John Church, Georgetown, Ky.
St. John the Evangelist

St. Anthony Church, Decoursey, Ky.
St. Anthony the Hermit

Benedictine Convent, Covington, Ky.
St. Walburga

Sisters of Divine Providence Convent, Newport, Ky.
The Sacred Heart

St. Rose Church, Mayslick, Ky.
The Annunciation

St. Elizabeth Hospital, Covington, Ky.         
St. Elizabeth giving alms to the poor

St. Peter Claver Church, Louisville, Ky.       
St. Joseph with St. Anthony, and Mary Queen of Heaven with St. Francis and St. Clare (originally painted for the chapel of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Louisville)

Ursuline Convent Chapel, Louisville, Ky.     
Immaculate Conception, The Sorrowful Mother, The Death of St. Joseph, scenes from the life of St. Ursula, and some of the Church’s great martyrs

St. Boniface Church, Louisville, Ky.             
Murals representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Francis, and St. Anthony
 
Holy Trinity Church, Evansville, Ky.            
Mural of the Most Holy Trinity, the Sorrowful Mother, and the Agony in the Garden

Holy Family Church, Oldenburg, Ind.          
Immaculate Conception and two murals over the side altars

Convent of the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Ind.
Portrait of Rev. Joseph Rudolph

 

Hamburg, Ind.
Altar piece of St. Ann

St. Michael Church, Brookville, Ind.
Altar piece representing St. Michael crushing Lucifer

Benedictine Convent, Ferdinand, Ind.
Immaculate Conception

St. Mary Church, Huntingburg, Ind.
Altar piece

Annunciation Church, New Albany, Ind.
St. John the Evangelist, St. Philomena

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay, Wisc.
Crucifixion, series of pictures of the life of St. Francis, The Agony in the Garden, The Burial of Christ

St. Francis Seminary Chapel, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Consecration of St. Francis de Sales

Assumption Church, St. Paul, Minn.
Large sanctuary picture and four panels of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minn.           
Five small paintings
 
St. Benedict Abbey, Atchison, Kan.             
The Sacred Heart, St. Joseph with the Child Jesus

St. Francis Church, Cincinnati, Ohio             
Doctors of the Church, Augustine, Gregory, Ambrose, Jerome; gold leaf work on the high altar, scenes from the life of St. Francis

St. John Church, Cincinnati, Ohio                 
Several murals

St. Anthony Friary, Cincinnati, Ohio            
Above the high altar: Immaculate Conception surrounded by Franciscan saints, Statue of St. Anthony of Padua

St. Xavier Church, Cincinnati, Ohio              
St. Anne

St. Louis Church, Cincinnati, Ohio               
The Crucifixion, St. Anne, Purgatory

Maria Stein, Mercer County, Ohio                
Altar piece

Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio           
Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception Chapel, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio     
Coronation of the Blessed Virgin, Christ Blessing the Little Children 

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