Wisdom on Wednesdays—As near despair and madness as possible

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St. Paul the Hermit, oil on canvas, c. 1922, 30 x 25 in. (Private collection)
Schmitt’s depiction of St. Paul of Thebes (d. c. 341) being fed miraculously by a raven was probably inspired by a painting of the saint by the great seventeenth-century Spanish artist Velázquez. The enigmatic figure on the foreground is Schmitt’s own contribution.
A version of this painting in brighter colors is part of the Carl Schmitt Foundation’s collection.

“To come as near despair as possible without losing hope—that is the aim of a Christian.
“To come as near madness as possible without losing sanity—(that is, to be as fanatical as possible without losing idiocy) is the aim of an artist.”  (1932)

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Carl Schmitt Foundation’s inaugural symposium a success

Defining the Role of the Catholic Artist Today

On October 27th the Carl Schmitt Foundation hosted its inaugural Symposium in Sterling, Virginia. Organized jointly by CSF Creative Director Andrew de Sa and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, the event drew nearly 200 people, some driving as far as four hours to attend with others tuning into the livestream on the Foundation’s website.

“Defining the Role of the Catholic Artist Today” brought together five of today’s leading Catholic artists to discuss their own work as well as their understanding of the vocation of a Catholic artist today.

Andrew Wilson Smith brings over a decade of experience teaching and executing fine art projects for churches and institutions, and is the founding director of Four Crowns Atelier.

Henry Wingate is an oil painter who studied in the Boston School tradition of painting. He paints portraits primarily, but also figurative works, landscapes, and still lifes.

Dr. Timothy McDonnell is Director of Choral Studies and Head of the Institute of Sacred Music at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and a distinguished composer and choral conductor.

James Langley is an artist and professor of life drawing, and portraiture at Savannah College of Art and Design.  He paints by commission from his studio in Savannah, Georgia.

Will Seath is a designer with McCrery Architects of Washington, DC, who specializes in liturgical architecture.

The symposium was accompanied by an impressive exhibit of Carl Schmitt’s paintings, pastels, and drawings as well notebooks, writings, and objects from the artist’s studio.

Each artist offered a presentation of his work, ranging from an original choral composition to a recently erected cathedral and hand-carved archways for a Gothic-style monastery.  Through these presentations the audience was given a glimpse not only of the artists’ expertise but also their approach to living out their vocation as artists.  The exquisite works underlined their service to the Church and the importance of the Fine Arts.

A particularly moving moment came when renowned oil painter James Langley described his meeting with Carl Schmitt and the pivotal role the encounter had on his career.

Soren Johnson, Associate Director in the Office of Catechetics for the Diocese of Arlington, described the event as “the best interaction between the Faith and the Arts I have ever seen.”  Carl Schmitt, Jr., founder of the CSF and a son of the artist, was particularly moved, saying, “We heard from five different artists with five different backgrounds and mediums, but in each of the artists I saw a portrait of my Father.”

With the success of the inaugural Symposium, the Carl Schmitt Foundation is looking to expand the event in 2019.  Your support of the CSF is vital to offering opportunities like this for an encounter with the Fine Arts.  Such encounters, Schmitt believed, “serve to recall us to the fact that mystical religion is the vital force most deeply embedded in man from which springs all his most notable activity.”

Thank you for all your support during this exciting time for the Foundation!

Wisdom on Wednesdays—“It is easy to love humanity”

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Gertrude feeding her son Austin, September 9, 1921

“I always suspect the poet or artist who loves humanity. It is immature and an oversimplification of a difficulty. For it is easy to love humanity—the trouble comes when we attempt to love our neighbor. Our neighbor is not a vague abstraction but the individual with whom we come in contact in our daily lives.”  (c. 1931)

Wisdom on Wednesdays—Grateful as a beggar

“My philosophy may be summed up thus:
“First, to receive from God gratefully everything possible that I can get.
“Second, to give back to God through my neighbor everything which I can give.
“To give gifts to my neighbor I must use art, because a gift must be made—
hence I must be an artist.
“The world of doing, the wage, is outside my world of beggars and gifts,
because I believe that God gives me my energy.  I cannot earn it.
I can only be grateful as a beggar and share as a beggar would.”
(1933)

Gum arabic print for a magazine article on Thanksgiving, 1930s.

Wisdom on Wednesdays—A passion for the permanence of matter

“Religion today is often nothing more than a concept.
“Hence the seeming dichotomy between religion and beauty.
“For the artist has an instinct for material absolutes: he has a passion for the permanence of matter which the philosopher, in his specialization, seems to ignore.  Hence, a Roman Paganism seems necessary to balance the Greco-Jewish religion which tends either to Gnosticism, or concepts, or both, avoiding the Incarnation and death of a God-man.”  (1952)

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Madonna Against a Hillside, oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in.