Faculty Spotlight: An Interview with Ted Schmidt

by Amanda Scuglia, MFA 2013

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lived there until I was 16. I spent some of my high school years at school in Switzerland. I came to New York in 1964.

Tell me a little about your own personal work..

I had several wonderful teachers who had significant influence on the evolution of my work. Though I had early training in abstraction from Gabriel Laderman (student of de Kooning and Han Hofmann) and Stanley Hayter (Surrealist and teacher of Pollock), I have been strongly figurative for the past 45 years). The several schools I attended in Europe: International School in Geneva, Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Atelier 17 in Paris, and The American Academy in Rome, allowed me to travel widely and to deeply absorb the classical tradition. My focus has always been the human figure. I prefer to work directly from life, sometimes from photos (as an aide-mémoire), and very often from memory and invention. 

You are one of the founders of the New York Academy of Art; Tell me how that came about:

I was the Academy’s first and only teacher when the school began in 1982. That year I was awarded the Prix de Rome, and after teaching for a semester, I left for the American Academy in Rome. I returned in 1984, and rejoined the New York Academy. We expanded the curriculum to include sculpture, anatomy and life-size painting. The reason I was included among those planning the birth of the Academy, was because in 1981, I had a solo museum show and the museum’s director was an important figure in the planning group. He brought me in. 

Andy Warhol was another one of the founders, did you know him?

Andy Warhol was really devoted to the Academy in its early days. Surprisingly, his personal taste - the art he collected and chose to live with - was classical in nature. He actually drew well and considered training in drawing essential for an art student. After his unfortunate early death, his foundation directed its funds entirely to the Academy. For the next two years our students attended the Academy free, under Warhol Scholarships! This ended when Warhol Foundation politics caused a change in priorities. Anyway, Andy was close to our school in the beginning. I did spend an afternoon at the “Factory” and watched him at work. We went together to an opening, and later he visited me in my studio. I remember he said my work was ‘beautiful.”

Since youve been here since the beginning, can you tell me how the Academy has changed over the years?
No doubt, the Academy right now has never been better. The early days were very tumultuous. However, our students have always been talented, and have often produced wonderful work. I think we are doing about as well as possible, with a wide range of devoted teachers and courses, and a philosophy that encourages a wide range of creativity.

What do your think makes NYAA's MFA program different from others?

The NYAA is certainly unique as a graduate art school. Of course, we offer technique and skill-based courses focused on the human figure. Our community of amazing art students, who share so many interests, ideas and creative goals, very much contributes to this special place.

Have any favorite quotes?

My beloved teacher, Lennart Anderson, said to me “An artist has to keep his (or, her) life simple.”


  1. geesh, how outdated

  2. He'd like that last comment.

  3. Fascinating esp the link with Warhol

  4. I had him as a teacher briefly at the Art Student's League in the late 90s. I think his sanguine and charcoal drawings are beautiful, sublime! However, I don't care for his paintings, which I find stiff and contrived. They lack the vitality and naturalness of his drawings.