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)

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Seeing things from the “inside out”: The contribution of Rome

Carl Schmitt’s son Jacob has written extensively on his father’s life, work, and aesthetic philosophy.  This excerpt discusses Schmitt’s awakening to the unique contribution of Rome not simply to world culture in general, but the interiority which is vital to any authentic endeavor in the arts.

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Palace of Sepimius Severus, c. 1940, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in.
A painting based on sketches done by Schmitt while in the Rome in the 1930s.

While on a second honeymoon in 1934, after visiting Dalmatia and the little towns of Korčula, Split, and Dubrovnik along the Adriatic where he had visited as a student, Schmitt continued to Venice, Florence, and Rome.  One afternoon, while sketching the gigantic ruins of Septimius Severus palace in Rome, he once again was reminded of the significance of place.  Nowhere, he recounts in his notes, had he found as here in Rome, a sense of permanency and interior quietude.  This “realization” was first experienced during his student years in Italy, but here and now, in the Eternal City, he found a more profound, conscious realization of it—a sense of what he first called “interior being.”

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Palace of Sepimius Severus, c. 1940, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 in.
“The Fine Art of Architecture did not appear until the creative genius of Rome brought it into being,” Schmitt wrote in 1956. “The poetry of interior space with shadow had to be revealed in the Pantheon the baths and the basilicas of Rome before the paradox of the Fine Arts was proclaimed.”

His mind went back to the time when these ancient ruins, the Theater of Marcellus, the Baths of Caracalla, and the still-standing Pantheon, were built with massive archways and vaulted ceilings that soared to the heavens with a glorious spacious interiors—what he later called the form of interior space.

These magnificent interior structures were created by and signified, in his mind, an interior, personal maturity not seen in any previous age.  Here in Rome, he thought, was what the true Renaissance was seeking—the manifestation of a full human person who recognized the superiority of an interior, familial life over the social, political life endemic of the Grecian contribution.  Rome had turned inside out all that it had absorbed from the idealized, aesthetic Grecian culture.  It had unified all the scattered Grecian city-states into the one centralized political system of Rome—Urbe et Orbe (the city of Rome and the whole world).

Pennsylvania Station, etching, dated June 16, 1916.
The great hall of the massive Beaux-Arts structure in New York City, now demolished, was modeled after the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Thus, for Schmitt, the Roman sense for interior space became a more inclusive realization and expression of reality.  It had the advantage of an interior vision of seeing things from the “inside out” rather than from the Platonic-Grecian idealized vision of looking “on” or “at” things from the “outside in.”  This was a more personal development without which no true perfection in anything could be developed.  Here was the central aspect of his aesthetic dramatic stage more fully realized.

No wonder, he thought, that this interior form of the Roman Republic was able to permeate, absorb, and inform the then-known world.  No wonder Peter and Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, found themselves in Rome transforming this personal, pagan, interior maturity—first prepared for by the realization of the hidden interior nature of reality found in Aristotelian thought—into an interior Christo-centric reality.

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Interior of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Korčula, Dalmatia, pastel on paper, June 16, 1926
“The era of Augustus with its grandeur and peace could never have occurred without magnificent virtue, and it is only on such magnificent natural virtue that the supernatural virtues of Christianity can be placed, if they are to survive (short of miracle).” (1943)

Wisdom on Wednesdays—The Fountain of Youth

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Nursing the Baby, pen and ink on paper

“The great weakness of us Americans as a people consists in the fact that we cannot quite accept maturity, old age, death, or, for that matter, birth, babyhood.  They are not in our imaginative picture of life.  We try to live apart from birth, old age, death.  We die from ‘perpetual youth.’”  (1939)

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

“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)

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Gertrude feeding her son Austin, September 9, 1921

Dad: A civilized man

This week we are honoring David T. Schmitt, Carl Schmitt’s fifth son, who died on March 22 at the age of 89.  Below is David’s portrait of his father, taken from a collection of memories he wrote down not long after his father’s death.

My father was born in 1889 in Warren, Ohio.  He was the second son of Jacob and Grace Schmitt, who had only two boys. His father Jacob taught music in Youngstown and donated his expertise as the choir director for St. Mary’s Church in Warren for over fifty years.  He also played the organ every Sunday for that period.

Jacob Schmitt with his sons Carl (left) and Robert, c. 1905.

From the beginning Dad could always draw, he had the talent of the discerning line.  He pursued this talent and made it his vocation, leaving high school to study art in New York, at the National Academy of Design.  He always knew what he wanted to do and he did it as far as art was concerned. He was given the gift and he knew it was his responsibility to develop it.  He further studied abroad in France and Italy before the First World War.

Later he returned home to marry Gertrude Lord and settle in Silvermine, near Norwalk, Connecticut.  Here he and other like-minded artists founded the Silvermine Guild of Artists, a colony where they could exchange ideas, paint and exhibit their skills.  This included drama, sculpture, painting, drawing, etching, water color, and some crafts such a pottery–they established a shop.

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Self-Portrait, charcoal and pencil on paper, December 1916

My father was what I call a civilized man: you could count on him to not only do the right thing at the right time but from the right motive, and he always knew why he should do things so.  He had good will and intelligence.  He was mature.  He not only nursed the gift of Faith, but he welcomed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, contemplated them, and tried to integrate them into his everyday life as much as possible.

He was civilized in the Christian tradition and he saw God’s creation as a magnificent manifestation of his love, because God is magnificent.  He wasn’t stilted in Puritan observations and taboos because Christ has redeemed creation to the extent that it wants or has cooperated in submission.  Consequently the Holy Spirit has informed nature to raise it above itself through grace.

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Self-Portrait, oil on hardboard, c. 1965, 15 x 12 in.

Mother always said Dad had an “artistic nature” or “temperament.”  In a word, he responded almost innately: dramatically, responsibly to any given situation.  He had instant commitment or involvement, with integrity.  To balance this innate tendency he was also extremely analytical to the point of being almost scientific about evaluating everything.

He was a true contemplative at times and even mystical at others in his deep understanding of the true nature of persons, places, things, situations—he would speak of the symbol and reality of the Trinity again and again in creation!

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Untitled, pastel on paper, 14 x 16 in.