Hope for the Future of Art

by Carl Schmitt
1935

We have had in the history of European art so far, speaking generally, but two main streams of painting: one whose general tone is based upon an emotional intuition and one whose chief characteristic has been academic (social intuition). The first or emotional stream has its fundamental validity centered on the real balance of lust and purity. The second is based upon the struggle between covetousness and poverty of spirit.

I make bold to say incidentally that the reality (on which the symbolic art feeds) is simply the pageant of the struggle between the virtues and the vices individual or collective of man historical. The artistic vocation in the painter lies essentially in the faculty of standing aside and as objectively as possible setting in symbols the high intensity of this very real war. Since the painter is one who stands aside, his vision then is not only historical, but prophetic insofar as he understands the pageant before him.

There remains for the future, one stream only tentatively appearing, and that but recently as a real movement. I mean an art whose tone is intellectual. This does not mean, of course, a break with the emotional and classical tradition, because an artist weak in emotion and social compromise can hardly support wisdom. But there must be a number of years ahead of us devoted, in transition, to the problem of bringing into the intellectual intuition the mass of unrelated analyses both technical and human before we can produce the future art which has I think been genuinely forecast in the faltering attempts of Cezanne. This means an art which depends not so much upon the peeping out of eroticism or on professional exchange value, but upon a pride which transcends these two old painter friends.

The struggle between pride and humility as the main characteristic in a painting is of course not new. What I wish to call attention to in this, is that a Millet, Delacroix, Homer, Cezanne, etc. have stood separate in an era of salable craftsmen, dealer-painters or voluptuaries, however these latter may be disguised. There remains an era when the “warm” painter or “cool” man of the world will be somewhat of an anachronism. In the meantime, there is this bottle-neck of the transition when man painfully catches up to his prophets. However, the question remains, is not the idea of wisdom in the arts bound to be a rare thing?


© Copyright 2013 Carl Schmitt Foundation