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Katherine Schmidt papers, circa 1921-1971

Biographical Note

Katherine Schmidt (1898-1978) was born in Xenia, Ohio. She moved with her family to New York City, and around the age of 13 began attending Saturday classes at the Art Students League. She continued her art classes after high school and was taught by F. Luis Mora, Kenneth Miller, and John Sloan. While attending the Art Students League, Schmidt made many friends who would later become prominent members of the New York art community, including Peggy Bacon, Alexander Brook, Reginald Marsh, and Lloyd Goodrich. In 1919 she married fellow art student, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, in Ogunquit, Maine. They lived in Maine during the summers, but settled in Brooklyn, New York. Schmidt began working for Juliana Force at the Whitney Studio Club in 1923, where she also periodically exhibited her artwork. She taught sketching classes for the club and also did various other jobs for Force and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney until around 1930. Her work during this period consisted of drawings and paintings of landscapes, still lifes, and the homeless and unemployed.
In 1925 Schmidt and Kuniyoshi took their first trip to Europe, spending a year in Paris and Italy and visiting the studios of their American expatriate friends. After another brief trip to Europe in 1928, she and Kuniyoshi bought a house in Woodstock, New York, where they would spend several summers as part of a very active artists' community. In the late 1920s she exhibited and was represented by the Daniel Gallery in New York. In the early 1930s, she became affliated with Downtown Gallery where she became good friends with owner Edith Halpert. She and Kuniyoshi divorced in 1932 and a year later she married lawyer Irvine Shubert. In the 1930s Schmidt became dissatisfied with her artwork and had her last show at the Downtown Gallery in 1939, taking a hiatus from exhibiting for over twenty years.
During the 1930s and 1940s Schmidt became very active in promoting federal and state government support of the arts. She worked with Juliana Force and others on a New York State art bill in the early 1930s, and in 1941 testified for federal appropriations for the arts in Washington D. C. as part of the Citizens Committee for Government Arts Projects. She was also active in the Artists Equity Association.
Schmidt spent many years experimenting with different painting techniques and subjects, and in the late 1950s found a new motif that she pursued for the rest of her life: still lifes of discarded paper and dead leaves. Schmidt died in Sarasota, Florida in 1978 at the age of 79.