In August of 2016, The Hyde Collection announced it received its largest donation since Charlotte Pruyn Hyde bequeathed her home and artwork to establish the Museum in 1952. Combined, the Feibes & Schmitt gift more than doubles The Hyde’s holdings of Modern and Contemporary art, positioning the Museum as a regional hub for Post-war art. A new gallery devoted to Modern and Contemporary art, aptly named the Feibes & Schmitt Gallery, opened in June 2017.
For more than four decades, the late Werner Feibes and James Schmitt amassed a world-class art collection that aligned with their personal tastes and interest in non-objective art, Pop art, abstract art, and Minimalism. The collection of paintings, drawings, prints, mixed media, and sculpture includes works from some of the best known and most respected artists of the twentieth century, including Josef Albers, Jean Arp, Grace Hartigan, Keith Haring, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Robert Motherwell, George Rickey, Louise Nevelson, Bridget Riley, Robert Rauschenberg, David Smith, and Andy Warhol.
Background on Werner Feibes and Jim Schmitt
Mr. Feibes was just nine in December 1938 when he and his family fled Nazi Germany. The Feibes family settled first in New York City where Dr. Erich Feibes passed the medical boards, allowing him to continue the practice of pediatrics. The spirit of exploration that Mr. Feibes inherited animated the whole family: Dr. Feibes, his wife Gertrud, Werner, and his brother Walter set out one weekend to visit the bustling industrial center to the north, the City of Schenectady. A local physician named Van Der Bogert persuaded Dr. Feibes to set up a practice to serve Schenectady’s growing population. In 1940, the Feibes family bought a home in Schenectady, and Dr. Feibes set up a general practice. A renowned diagnostician, he made house calls until he was 75.
After graduating high school, Werner Feibes studied architecture at the University of Cincinnati. There he met Jim Schmitt, four years his senior. Mr. Feibes graduated in 1954 and returned to Schenectady where he joined the local architectural firm headed by Dr. Van Der Bogert’s son. A year later, wanderlust struck and he took time off to explore Europe.
After college, Mr. Schmitt, a native of Erie, PA, served in the Army in World War II and, after his service, stayed in Europe to study under the GI Bill. Mr. Schmitt was ready to return to the United States just as Mr. Feibes headed off to see Europe. Mr. Feibes arranged for him to take his job at the architecture firm in Schenectady.
Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt reunited in Schenectady in 1956. Mr. Feibes returned to work at the Van Der Bogert firm, which changed its name to Van Der Bogert, Feibes and Schmitt, and later became Feibes and Schmitt after Mr. Van Der Bogert’s early death. Messrs.Feibes and Schmitt practiced architecture together for 55 years, handling many major commissions, including Ellsworth Kelly’s studio in Spencertown, the Schenectady County Public Library, the Daughters of Charity’s St. Vincent de Paul House in Menands, St. Pius X Church in Loudonville, and the restoration of the Assembly Chambers in the New York State Capitol in Albany.
They discovered the potential of the then-rundown neighborhood in Schenectady which became known as the Stockade. Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt helped to organize the Stockade Association, published a neighborhood newspaper, and spearheaded the first historic zoning ordinance in the State of New York that led to the preservation of Schenectady’s oldest neighborhood.
In retirement, Mr. Feibes and Mr. Schmitt traveled widely in pursuit of their love of art, music, and opera. They maintained an apartment in the Bronx to be close to the center of the art world in New York and a residence on Block Island, but home was always the Stockade, and they remained active in the cultural and civic life of the neighborhood, the City of Schenectady, and the broader Capital Region. Both were honored as Patroons, the highest honor the City of Schenectady bestows, for their efforts to “make a difference” in their community. The couple was married on March 22, 2013. Mr. Schmitt died just two months later at 87.