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
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
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
'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.
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
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
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.