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Biography (5/10)
Italy, 1925-1927. Finding the landscape

Staude's young years were ruled by a deep restlessness that kept him 'in perpetual migration'. The young painter was searching for the landscape in which
he could recognize himself, for 'the landscape that I bear within me,' as he wrote. He had 'visions of pictures,' but didn't know how to translate them into paint. He had to find the picture outside himself, in the world, in nature. And he had to find a form for it, knowing well that 'even that shall be provided by nature.'
But where was that nature, where was that landscape shaped like his visions?
He travelled, looked. He looked at the old masters, looked at the world. For many years he had studiously avoided Italy. The nostalgia for Italy lingers in every German who has read Goethe. Every painter has gone there and it seemed too obvious to Staude that he should have to go there, too.
And yet, once he arrived in Italy, Staude soon found himself in front of the very landscape he had been looking for. In Taormina began his growing disenchantment with the 'bad impressionism' of his teacher. Instead he began to organize his own paintings into masses of light and shade, 'so that the anatomy of the painting may become clear.'
In Arezzo he saw the frescoes by Piero della Francesca and found them to be art in its highest expression of order, solidity and unity of colour. Now it was that his own pictorial intentions became clearer to him. In Florence, he decided to take leave of the group of painters he was travelling with and to stay on. In the broadest sense possible, he had found the landscape with the inherent order he had been looking for.
'Florence. First of all it's about the people,' he wrote to Heino Elkan. To Kostek Gutschow: 'And then, the countryside! […] Waves of hills, but they are constructed, shaped […].' In Tuscany the sun shines upon people and things with inexorable precision, enabling the artist to carry through a study of nature that is simply impossible among the Northern mists. Not by chance, Staude found in Tuscany both the landscape he was longing for and his masters - Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca: for there seems to be an intimate connection between art and the landscape in which it was born.
Now his own painting would be able to take shape.
In „Samos", in the Tuscan campagna, with (l. to r.): Maja Einstein Winteler, uncle Georg Staude, Paul Winteler During his first stay in Florence Staude led a simple life, in rented rooms (the first was in via Guicciardini) and at the studio with his models. Paul Winteler and his wife Maja, Albert Einstein's sister, who lived in a farmhouse in the classical Tuscan countryside near Sesto - in an oasis they called 'Samos' - soon became his new family. The first Italian painter he met and whom he found a kindred spirit was Giovanni Colacicchi, who had just arrived in Florence from Anagni near Rome.
'I find myself on a marvellous working path […] How I can ever want to leave this place I don't yet know,' he wrote to Gutschow in 1925.
By no means had he given up his intention to participate in the renewal of the art of his time ('We must be more than arabesques on the margin. We must be wheels that power the machinery of the world! Ah, if only that were possible again!' he wrote in a letter of 1927 to Adolf Schneider). But he no longer spoke of working 'for the new Germany.' He was becoming more and more of a European, feeling committed to European art as a whole rather than to that of a particular country or people.
Between 1926 and 1928, in front of classical Italian art, he spelled out his own artistic convictions and established once and for all the guidelines along which he intended to proceed. His notebooks and letters of the time bear witness to an intellectual process which he would never again question.
As the years went by, Staude's amazement at his adopted country never diminished. 'The number of so-called 'simple people' who say things and have 'ways of behaviour' superior to ours, keeps increasing according to my experience,' he wrote as an old man to the painter Odi Kasper. 'That peculiar sort of spirituality that is sedimented in this landscape keeps surfacing in a conversation, a gesture.'
Yet, around mid-1928, after a severe nervous break-down caused by the intensity with which he had worked, he began to doubt whether it wasn't too easy, too obvious for him to be happy in Florence. And suddenly, taking a decision contrary to all his instincts, he put an end to his stay and returned to Hamburg.