Wisdom on Wednesdays—“Is there anything more real than poverty with a family?”

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Shack where Schmitt stayed on his property in Silvermine before his marriage.
Pastel on paper, 14 x 11 in.

“Critics comfortably off and cosmopolite tell me that it is fatal for me to live alone in the woods and paint, that I must not separate myself from humanity, reality. . . . Humanity?  Is there anything more human than ones own children?  Reality?  Is there anything more real than poverty with a family? (except death, which is also tasted each day)?”  (1931)

Wisdom on Wednesdays—Making oodles of money

Portrait of H. K. Wick [11410]

Portrait of H. K. Wick, oil on canvas, 1917, 28 x 23 in.
Butler Institute of American Art; gift of Mrs. H.K. Wick, 1934.
Read the story of Carl Schmitt’s struggle to paint this portrait here.

“To be quite healthy the soul must be large enough to either (a) face the risk of poverty by concentrating on things more fitting to man’s nature and end, or (b) take the responsibility of making oodles of money and giving it away to the unworthy as fast as it is made.”   (1942)

Wisdom on Wednesdays—Now is the nadir of the world

“Now is the nadir of the world:
To be poor in spirit, but not too poor
To be chaste, but not too chaste
To be honest, but not too honest.
Thus Christianity is an enemy:
‘Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect’
is the counsel of fanaticism.
The politician must compromise in a ‘possible world.’”
(1964)

Coronation of the Virgin, oil on canvas, c. 1924, 42 x 35 in.

The Schmitt Kids

We present another selection from the recollections of Carl Schmitt’s son David, who died this past month at the age of 89.

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The Schmitt family on the porch of their home, c. 1934.  Left to right: John, Carl, Jr., Michael, Carl with Gertrude in his lap, David, Robert, Gertrude with Christopher in her lap, Austin, Peter, and Jacob (sitting).

We were a big family of ten children, all boys except the youngest.  Her name was Gert.  Chris was the youngest boy.  Both were best of buddies, known as “grease and dirt.”  The got along like a dog and a cat, always at odds with each other, constantly bickering over everything.  I suppose it was the only way they were able to be noticed by the rest of us, a sort of “attention to the noisiest.”

David, Jake and John were the middle kids of the family and were usually left out of everything exciting.  Excitement meant going somewhere.  The four big kids, Bobby, Austin, Michael and Peter always got to go to the beach, the movies or to parties.  Likewise, the three youngest, Carl, Chris and Gert always got to go places too.  At least it always seemed that way.

My father was an artist by profession and painted pictures for a living.  He even painted pictures during the depression when work was difficult to obtain.  He also raised a gigantic vegetable garden to help feed us during the summer months.  Mother would can what she could from the garden for the long New England winters.

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House on the Hill, pastel on paper, 15 x 17 in.  
This work was given to the artist’s good friends Bill and Margaret Ryan as a Christmas gift in 1951.

Although food was not plentiful, we always managed to eat.  We especially appreciated what we thought was a specialty, an orange a piece on Sundays.  But then we also enjoyed, on that same day, something that was not so common, a leg of lamb.  Even today many families do not have lamb.  Dad’s conviction about food was, “Most people eat too much anyhow.”  He always said things like this to assure us.

We all lived in a house with one big bedroom for us kids.  My parents had a room newly built off of that.  Because my dad and my uncle built the house, there was no bathroom, running water or central heating.  Apparently, since they were artists aspiring to great heights, such mundane conveniences as these never crossed their minds.  We did, however, have a well, an outdoor hand pump, a “two holer” back house, two fireplaces, and a Franklin coal stove in the kitchen area.  This old coal stove went day and night in the winter time, trying to keep the rest of the house above freezing.  We all slept under huge piles of blankets stacked ten to fifteen high. If the sheer weight was all but unbearable, we never got cold.

Silvermine house from bottom of hill

The house in Silvermine from the bottom of hill near the Silvermine River.  The “newly built” section can be seen at the left.

Dad made sure we children always said evening prayers together before bedtime.  He would also lead us in grace before meals.  Before we had a car, every Sunday he walked with us to Mass.  He insisted we go to Mass, not because we felt like it or not, but because we owed it to our maker in justice.  He felt we also had the obligation and responsibility as creatures to be grateful to Divine Providence.  His favorite saying to each of us was: “Be a man.”  I interpreted him to mean: practice the natural virtues as well as the supernatural ones.  They belong in the picture too.  What good is a pious person who isn’t honest, or a holy man without courage?  He not only spreads confusion but gives scandal and poor example!