Giants of the Blues 1920-1950

September 12th, 2004 until January 15th, 2005

All Day

by Westport artist Eric von Schmidt

September 12, 2004 – January 15, 2005

Eric Von Schmidt
Blues Last Judgement (after Michaelangelo) by Eric Von Schmidt

The Westport Historical Society proudly presents Giants of the Blues 1920 to 1950 by Westport artist Eric von Schmidt, a series of paintings chronicling the roots of Black-American folk music. The collection visually brings together all of Eric’s talents as an outstanding artist and portrayer of historical events, songwriter, performer, prize-winning author and illustrator.

As a small child, Eric watched his father, legendary illustrator Harold von Schmidt, performing miracles week after week in the studio-a truly enchanted space-across the driveway from the family’s main house. Eric painted beside him, sketched with him and often posed for him.

Eric’s foundation in music came from his mother, Forest Gilmore. He had bought his first guitar after hearing Leadbelly sing live on a New York radio station and was encouraged by his parents to visit the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. There, he discovered a body of forgotten archival blues recordings, and Eric’s second career was born.

Eric graduated from Staples High School and went briefly to the Art Students League in New York City, before being drafted during the Korean War. After Korea, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study painting in Italy in 1956-1957. Upon his return, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts and became a folk and blues singer in the Cambridge Coffee House scene and entered the Boston literary field. His books, Baby Let Me Follow You Down, coauthored with Jim Rooney, won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 1979, and Notes for American Folk Music won a Grammy in 1998.

Eric von Schmidt’s series of paintings Giants of the Blues 1920 to 1950 honors and immortalizes the creators of the blues, those responsible for performing and preserving Black-American folk music. The paintings depict the rich history of the people who handed down the blues sounds that influence popular music today.

Piano Players
Henry Thomas’ Dream
Delta Dawn

featuring images of such famous bluesman as Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters

Texas Blues Men

featuring images of such famous bluesman as Blind Willie Johnson and Leadbelly

Beale Street’s The Walk

featuring images of such famous bluesman as Memphis Minnie and Mississippi Sheiks

Eric von Schmidt and the Cruel Family is an original painting used for a 1977 album cover

Exhibit Curator
Howard Munce

Exhibit Committee
Exhibit Co-Chairmen & Exhibit Design
Mollie Donovan & Wally Woods
Peter Jennings, Harry Audley & Martin West
WAC Concert Liason
Chance Browne
Graphics and Photography
Andrea Maritzer Fine

A very special thank you to
Caitlin von Schmidt
Westport Arts Center