Wisdom on Wednesdays—Justice and charity made respectable

Pencil sketch, Naples, 1915

Pencil sketch, Naples, 1915

“The individual virtues of justice and charity will always be corrupted by the world and socialized so that justice is turned into legality and charity is debased into philanthropy: justice and charity made respectable.”

from the essay “Culture Can Withstand Anything but Respectability” (1931)

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Wisdom on Wednesdays—The breakdown of civilization

Lady in Garden

Lady in a Garden, pastel on paper, c. 1922, 14¼ x 11¼ in.
A portrait of Schmitt’s wife Gertrude done outside his studio in Silvermine.

“Can our national virtues of Comfort, Wealth, and Success be reconciled with the Cardinal Virtues of Chastity, Poverty, and Humility?  I am afraid that the answer must be honestly faced.  And the answer is, No.  The breakdown of civilization has probably been caused by the attempt to reconcile the two sets of ultimately contradictory, exclusive values.”  (1943)

Wisdom on Wednesdays—The mark of God’s love

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Gertrude, pastel on paper, c. 1918, 20 x 15 in.

“Man is only happy in cooperating with his individual destiny.  All men are destined to perfect virtue.
Some men are destined to achieve virtue before death.
Some are destined to achieve it after death.
It is a special mark of providence to have the opportunity of complete humility before death.  The longer before death it is—the greater the mark of God’s love.”

(October 19, 1929)

Wisdom on Wednesdays—The triumph of comfort

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A Christening Party at Chartres, oil on canvas, 1928, 45 x 54 in.
Inspired by Schmitt’s stay in Chartres 1926-27, this painting was first exhibited at the twenty-seventh Carnegie International exhibition, October—December 1928.  A reviewer called it a “golden gaiety,” “one of those pictures which make you long to be in the place depicted.”

“The breakdown here in America is not due to a negative evil like sin, but to avoidance alike of all negative and positive things like the virtues and vices in the hope that, by postponing both heaven and hell long enough, a Utopia of science may be discovered.  It is thought that if the good can be held off long enough, comfort will triumph.”
—from the essay “Room (with Bath) at the Inn” (October 5, 1941)