Mount St. Helens and Mount Vesuvius
Philadelphia artist Charles Schmidt is known for his technical mastery and exquisitely rendered still life and figurative drawings and paintings. His work has long been inspired by the Italian Renaissance primarily the discovery of new artistic techniques to create perspective or the illusion of 3-dimensional space.
It is Schmidt's underlying interest in perspective, particularly his ability to create unique spatial systems that have remained a constant throughout his career. In 2006, during a trip to Rome, Schmidt became fascinated with an island in the Tiber River. It was that island and his "love of Italian landscapes and paintings of them" that turned his focus to landscape painting.
Schmidt said that his shift to landscapes "engendered many new ways of working and seeing…I reinvented myself." The landscape continues to fuel his interest in perspective and provides unlimited "compositional and aesthetic possibilities that are not inherent in still life or figurative paintings, at least not for me."
In this series of paintings, Schmidt has chosen to portray two of the world's most famous volcanoes—Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, Italy, and Mount St. Helens, Skamania County, Washington, United States. Volcanic landscapes have fascinated artists for centuries—their beauty, mystery, and volatility. Schmidt noted that he is "often attracted to subjects that have been painted many times, but I try to depict them in new ways." For Mount Vesuvius, Schmidt climbed to its crater and Mount St. Helens he viewed it from a helicopter. In each painting he has incorporated a predella (another Renaissance influence)—the long horizontal band placed top or bottom of the larger painting—that provides additional visual details, different views of the subject, or historical context.