George Schmidt was born in New Orleans on November 14, 1944 at the Touro Infirmary. His earliest drawing was at the age of three in his parent’s receipt book at the Lauralee Guest House on St. Charles Avenue. George imitated the stick men, known as Dixie Doodles, from the Dixie Beer ad campaign of the time, which proved to his doting mother, Josephine, that her little boy was a child prodigy.
In 1950, when George was six, he won first prize in the prestigious Pirate’s Alley Children’s Art Show in the French Quarter with an entry of a finger-painting of a fish. This is the only prize he has ever won in his life.
George Schmidt learned to draw, under the tutelage of Mrs. Dempster, at the Sam Barthe School for Boys, a private elementary school, then located in City Park, a mere two blocks from the Isaac Delgado Museum (later renamed the New Orleans Museum of Art). In the sixth grade, Mrs. Myra Gaudin gave George the privilege of illustrating and decorating the entire classroom with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
At the age of ten George started painting on a Saturday evening, when he was presented with a set of oil paints that his mother bought for him at a local dime store. Since his mother was a member of the New Orleans Jazz Club, he begun painting scenes of jazz musicians and other locally themed work. She also gave him a book on how to draw the nude.
In high school, the curtain was drawn over George’s painting career as there was a total lack of formal instruction plus the distinct opinion among his peers that art was for social deviants, particularly by the outrage that was expressed when George appeared on television with his pictures of black New Orleans jazz musicians.
After four years of toiling in this secondary vineyard, George was given the opportunity, in lieu of a term paper of painting a picture entitled, “The Assassination of Huey Long”, by political science teacher, Mr. Alvin Murphy. George was given an A, for which he will be eternally grateful.
This project revived his creative juices and George was inspired with the benefit of a legislative scholarship given to him by Senator Fritz Egan, a perfect stranger, to enroll in the School of Architecture at Tulane University for four years. During this time he developed a complete loathing for the Bauhaus School. However, it was at the School of Architecture that he sharpened his drawing skills and color perception with a two year painting and drawing course taught by John Clemmer and Robert Helmer. He went on to receive his MFA in 1973 under the guidance of Pat Trivigno. While at Tulane, George co-founded The New Leviathan Oriental Fox-Trot Orchestra, playing banjo and doing the vocals. The Orchestra has been one of the most successful music groups in recent New Orleans history, having appeared on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and earning the distinction after thirty-five years, of being one of the longest continually performing musical groups at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, in addition to recording and publishing a critically acclaimed music catalogue of arrangements from the early 20th century.
George is an oxymoron typical of the City of New Orleans – a creative reactionary. George’s anti-modernism is best expressed by Leon Alberti in the 15th century treatise, On Painting; “Painting exists in order that the dead should live again and the distant brought near.” George maintained his rigorous classical style in interpreting New Orleans and her history in a number of major canvases depicting, “A History of Jazz” with their accompanying studies, which was exhibited along with the studies, in a one man show at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and now to be seen at Generations Hall, “A History of Carnival”, painted for the Inter-Continetal Hotel in New Orleans and numerous canvases illustrating scenes from the City’s artistic past. George was the first artist in residence at the Louisiana World Exposition in 1984.
In the 1990s, George was commissioned by Freeport McMoran to paint two large images for a hotel in Irian Jaya, Indonesian New Guinea of the Amungme and Mamika tribes. This commission required his traveling to the site to meet and interview former cannibals and headhunters. In 1999, he was invited to exhibit his drawing of “Nick LaRocca at the Corner of Canal and Royal Streets,1915”, and a painting of “The Arrest of Louis Armstrong” at the Biennale in Florence, Italy. Also in the 1990s, George had a one-man show at Newcomb Art Department gallery entitled “A Brush with History”.
In 2012, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the State of Louisiana, George was honored with a one-man show entitled “Satire, Scandal and Spectacle: The Art of George Schmidt” at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Recently, George has completed a set of 21 etchings representing New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods, in homage of the 40th anniversary of Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. George created the series using the classic etching technique, which has endured as one of the most important and ubiquitous techniques for printmaking throughout centuries of history.
George’s masterfully drawn and richly painted works are represented in numerous public and private collections in the United States, Europe and Asia. He has been extensively profiled in film, television, print interviews and documentaries that have been released throughout the world. Recently George was featured on ‘The American Experience’ on PBS and other national media post Hurricane Katrina and has been featured on National Public Radio and in Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Offbeat and InConcert magazines.
George may be reached at his gallery at 626 Julia Street in the American Sector or via email at our Contact Page.