1929–1930 Bauhaus student
Schmidt then initially worked in an engineering works in Zell in Wiesental. In the evenings he studied at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel, attending classes with Niklaus Stöcklin in typeface development for commercial artists, drawing and figurative sculpture with clay. He subsequently attended the school for one term as a day pupil, and this was to pave the way for his career as an artist. For two years from October 1927 he studied at the Badischen Landeskunstschule Karlsruhe, now known as the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe (State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe). His entrance examination was of such quality that he was immediately accepted in the drawing class taught by Prof. Karl Hubbuch and the commercial art class taught by Wilhelm Schnarrenberger.
On the advice of Hubbuch, whose wife Hilde was sitting in on Walter Peterhans’s photography workshop, Arthus Schmidt enrolled at the Bauhaus Dessau in the winter term of 1929. Equipped with a loan from his parents he completed the preliminary course and attended among others the following classes: material and texture theory with Josef Albers, introduction to artistic design with Wassily Kandinsky, mathematics with Walter Peterhans, life drawing and lettering with Joost Schmidt, figurative drawing with Fritz Kuhr, chemistry with Wilhelm Müller and descriptive geometry with Friedrich Engemann. In the second term, Joost Schmidt and Willi Hauswald took on Schmidt in the printing workshop. He also attended Paul Klee’s class in artistic design, life drawing with Joost Schmidt, figurative drawing and life drawing with Fritz Kuhr and chemistry and mathematics classes with the preliminary course teachers. In 1930 he contributed to the second Internationale Hygiene-Ausstellung (International Hygiene Exhibition) in Dresden.
For financial reasons, he left the Bauhaus after two terms to take a job as a commercial artist in Zofingen, Switzerland. In 1932 he returned to the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule Basel for a further four terms. There, he attended the specialised class for commercial art with Teo Ballmer, a former Bauhaus graduate, and received training in industrial photography. From 1934 he took up a job as a graphic artist alongside his wife Gisela, a qualified bookbinder and graphic artist. In 1936 they both set up in Lörrach as freelance advertising graphic designers.
Schmidt was called up for military service in 1939. During his deployment in France he painted watercolours of French towns and landscapes and oil paintings in Brittany. In an American prisoner of war camp from March to November 1945, he was ideally situated to pursue his passion for painting and drawing again, fulfilling the requests of American soldiers by painting portraits of them.
In 1946 Schmidt was given a teaching position in the applied arts professions at the vocational school in Lörrach and then in Schopfheim. He taught pattern designers, graphic designers, decorators and shop window and set designers until 1973. From 1959 to 1962 he was a member of Lörrach town council and notably advocated the conservation of listed buildings. After his retirement he began to sculpt in marble. In painting, he favoured a expressive-realistic style of his own. In 1986 his housekeeper, who was 40 years younger than him, inspired him to create a wealth of new works, especially life drawings. Arthur Schmidt died on 1 March 2007 at the age of 99 in his self-designed studio in Tüllinger Berg, Lörrach.
Schmidt participated in the Christmas exhibitions of the art associations in Karlsruhe (Badischer Kunstverein) and Stuttgart (Württemberchischer Kunsterverein Stuttgart ) until 1983. Thereafter he pulled out of the Badischer Kunstverein because he did not accept its general bias towards abstract art. Many of his paintings, especially his visionary panoramas of Basel, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Lucerne, Salzburg, Stuttgart and Säckingen, are on show to the public. His works have been shown in galleries and museums in Maulburg, Lörrach, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Baden-Baden and Nancy, France. The last exhibition in his lifetime was held in 1998 in the Museum am Burghof in Lörrach to mark his 90th birthday. A commemorative exhibition to mark his centenary was also held there ten years later.
Text: Burckhard Kieselbach
- Database on the history and culture of the Regio TriRhena (umbrella organisation of the Regio societies in Germany, France and Switzerland. Recordings by Saskia Schmidt-Möller, 2014.
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