Schmidt’s Jewish Texas art displayed at Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience

“Torah Reading.” Maurice Schmidt, 1986. San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts

“God, Goats and Pickup Trucks: Maurice Schmidt’s Visions of Texas” will be the first fine art painting exhibit at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience in New Orleans.

The exhibit will open on Jan. 26 with an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. for founders, members and patrons, and then will run through May 31.

The exhibition features 23 artworks, including paintings, sketches, prints and sculpture, colorfully depicting scenes both rural and religious, created over Schmidt’s long career. A centerpiece of the exhibition will be the painting, “Herdsmen are we, both we and thy fathers,” a large oil on canvas work that is being donated to the museum by Schmidt.

Schmidt states that his work, though often illustrating pastoral, workaday scenes such as cows grazing in fields and farmhands transporting livestock, is always in reference to the divine. “There are holy spaces between the soil and the tractor above, between trees and their shade,” he said, noting, “Art that would praise God must touch the human heart.”

Several of the works on display portray more explicitly religious and Jewish subject matter, such as a stark Biblical print entitled “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” and a vibrant painting of three men draped in prayer shawls, carrying Torahs.

“This is the first collection of fine art paintings that we’ve exhibited,” said Kenneth Hoffman, MSJE Executive Director. “It gives us another way to explore Southerness, Jewishness, identity and community — this time through the lens of one man’s creativity and talent.”

Schmidt grew up in New Braunfels, Texas. As a child, he did watercolor paintings but got bad grades in art class, because the teachers in school handed out lined scenes, with instructions to stay in the lines and not mix colors. It wasn’t until he started learning from an actual art teacher who owned a local antiques store that he realized “art” wasn’t what he had been taught in school.

He studied at the University of Texas at Austin and at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and taught in the Art Department at Texas A&M for over 40 years. His work has been shown throughout the US and internationally, including in an exhibition in Tel Aviv.

The museum will present several public programs and art activities while this exhibition is on view.

The Maurice Schmidt collection is on loan to MSJE from the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in Texas.