LETTERS & DOCUMENTS
An Autobiographical Statement 1967
"I decided to study drawing in Paris; I had to learn a profession. I could not think of anything that I would be interested in or talented for" more
Michael Pflug's Biographical Statement 2000
"...Christiane decided on July 1954 in Viera da Silva's studio to become a painter..." more
INTERVIEWS & REVIEWS
Christiane Pflug: Interview with Avrom Isaccs, 1964
"...You first started to paint when you went to Paris..." more
(click art for larger view)
Pont des Arts and Ile de lla Cite
Still Life with Staircase
LETTERS & DOCUMENTS: Paris 1954-56
Christiane Pflug to Regine Faust
... The painting you will get as soon as possible and, now sit down, also one from me. Because I have started to paint since two months, and it is really that which I have always missed. And besides that they are really paintings and not postcards. Michael says in a year at the latest I could successfully exhibit them, and now you will see some of it but it really isnt a harmless hobby for a Sunday afternoon, and I hope so much that you can accept and understand it. And that you will also appreciate what I paint.
xxxThis is all very difficult to write, and I wish I could explain it to you orally, that is much easier, but you will see and you can write to me what you are thinking.
xxxWe get along very well with each other. When Mummi saw him for the first time she said immediately: "Oh, how difficult!" and he really is difficult sometimes but that does not bother me because I, as they say, am not always that simple either, even though I thought I was. I have a horror of thinking that we have to separate and Canada is so far away, but, we will see. Otherwise I am drawing a lot, to learn as much as possible....
Christiane Schütt to Regine Faust, Paris, 2s VI 1954
... I am just returning from painting, I was out in Billancourt, walking about an hour along the Seine. It was disgusting, in some areas a lot of dead fish and cats were floating in the water, and besides that I saw crabs. They were quite grey and fuzzy and crawled along in the shallows and they looked disgusting, really. But otherwise it was very beautiful and I painted nicely. I wonder how Michael will like it tomorrow. He is 24 years old and will be 25 in June, his father was a professor of something, I dont know what, and I think he died last year. His mother lives now in Wuppertal, with the youngest brother, one brother died in the war and the sister lives in Hamburg.
xxxBasically we get along quite well, if he only did not always have something to criticize me about, and that bothers
me in the long run. Above all because he does not see at all that some things, for instance make-up and earrings represent a certain
style in dressing and are more playful and product of an environment, than necessarily designed to produce a certain effect. When I mentioned
to him that my mother was after all working in a fashion publishing
house and all women whom I met were like that and besides that I
liked it myself, then he could understand that, especially as I
have given it up a long time ago, my God, if it irritates him that
much then I after all dont find it all that important, and
perhaps he is right after all, because he says always that it represents
some inner conviction and I have become much nicer myself now that
I am not doing it anymore, perhaps he is right. And now my disorder,
good, I admit this deserves some comment. And in the beginning I
was not all that well organized how to do it in the best way, and
then winter was so cold, sometimes it was really very messy at my
place, but then he is not the most orderly type himself, but God
forbid that I say anything about it! Besides that it is always easier
for a man. He has two shirts, wears one one day and the next one
the next day. They never get ironed. It does not matter, that does
not bother me as you know. But if he finds something on me that
is not perfect it goes: "You really are a terribly messy woman!"
And then I have bad luck because just on the day that I am seeing
him my halter is tearing off, I lose a button on the day I am visiting
him even if it doesnt happen for a whole week. Now, peu á
peu this will improve! And these are trivial things, but you do
know how important just such details can be and how much weight
they can assume! And above all, sometimes he has a certain hardness
in his dealing with others, par example with me and in his judgement
of others to which I am not used, and which I do not accept. And
my past carries a great deal of weight (already now, for Gods
sake, what would that be later on!) It was stupid of me that I told
him everything, however, after all I dont stumble over his
past (which has admittedly much less to stumble over) and besides
that trust or no trust and unclear things and things one has to
hide I hate and my past isnt so overwhelming either after
all. Now all this has already improved a great deal, only sometimes
it seems to me as if I was a conglomerate of mistakes, instances
of negligence, carelessness... Well that is what it amounts to.
And then I tell him my opinion and after all each person has certain
faults and I for my part know nobody who is perfect, for I am quite
desperate, because after all I am making a real effort, and then
it works well for awhile, and we will take walks along the Seine,
look at our paintings, visit Sylvia and then it works well until
he picks on something else. Cest un jeu de tennis, back and
forth. It probably is also related to his past. His parents never
really believed in his painting. His mother still doesnt.
At 16 years old he was for three months in a Russian Prison Camp.
When he came home he was so emaciated that people on the way gave
him bread and his mother thought he would die. Then he was bedridden
for awhile and he recovered a bit. Then he has tried many different
things including working in Civil engineering, the art school in
Hamburg, an American reconstruction camp which must have been very
nice, then England where he studied theology (for a very short time).
A girl left him and that has taken a lot out of him. He wanted to
paint but it never quite worked and I can feel how that is. And
besides that it is in his nature to take everything much more seriously
and to fail in some things which we may just ignore and all in all
he is not a very radiant person. Sometimes I can only congratulate
myself to my happier nature and then, you can imagine!
xxxNow everything has improved already, I hope very much, that he will have some success with his painting. Then everything gets better. He has sold to an American gallery and he had a very good critique in one of the newspapers and I know how different he was after that. It is also dumb, that today no gallery wants to discover and develop a new talent. Now esperons at this time there are some new projects...
Christiane Schütt to Regine Faust, Paris, 2 VI 1954
...I always like the comparison between the French and German art of the Middle Ages. In France everything is very well composed, très réflechi, very conscious even early on and always aiming for a certain equilibrium in the composition, while with our art much is much more unconscious, much more dream-like, often by far not as detailed in the decoration, often very timid in the execution but in the expression of piety, for instance with the figures of the saints for my taste stronger and often much more poetic and more introvert. One is about thinking and the other is about feeling. Something so exageré as the gothic domes in Germany were never built in France. But both are expressions of mentality and the inner conviction...
Christiane Schütt to Regine Faust, Paris, 21 VI 1954
...My dearest Mammi, when I woke up on Sunday I first thought of you and then of Michael and then of all the others whom I love and with whom I get along well and I am so thankful and so happy that I know that you are there, and that you think of me and that we understand each other well and that we can love each other so much, because that is really extremely fortunate and besides that I am really happy that with Michael it is very beautiful and very harmonious. Of course he is very difficult, but creativity after all never occurs without inner tensions and perhaps I have found the key. At times I was quite desperate because I thought he would not be there for me, but now everything is better.
xxxIn the meantime it is really delightful, we are getting along extremely well and I am really very happy. All the days are now so full of so many beautiful things and life is marvelously rich, so that sometimes I am so happy that I think it is nearly too much and too beautiful...
Christiane Schütt to Regine Faust, Hamburg, July 1954
...It is not at all Michaels fault, because
he keeps telling me that I should not count on him, and I can understand
that from his point of view and so I am not doing it for that reason.
But after all I need somebody who will look at my paintings and
that he can do best for the moment, and besides that I really love
him, but you know that, perhaps I will send you a photograph but
I have to get it back...
Christiane Schütt to Regine Faust, October 17 1954
...They are all lovely, exceptional people, and I
love to see them from time to time, but every day takes my strength
and the inner concentration, one distracts oneself and loses in
depth and I paint without any virtuosity and very consciously. What
Michael calls the analytical intelligence of a painter, as in the
late Cèzannes and Matisses - we will both never have. Instead
a depth and an inner richness, which expresses itself in the paintings
as in the old Italians and the icons. I am not trying to say that
we paint the same way. Of course we paint in a contemporary idiom
and with other means, but we are trying to have the same depth and
Christiane Schütt to Regine Faust, Wuppertal, Christmas 1954
...But it is so, that the whole fashion business does not interest me at all anymore.
xxxIt is basically a very superficial, empty business about nothing and again nothing, with the exception of a few really beautiful dresses and the beautiful colors which however most of the time are no longer fashion but already something else. Not that I find it was completely irrelevant what one puts on oneself, on the contrary it is quite important but one has to bring it to another denominator. For me there is never such a perfect dress as the Indian sari even though it never changes, it leaves sufficient possibilities open for personal taste...
Christiane Schütt to Michael Pflug, Kupferhammer, June 25 1955
It is evening, I just went out a little up the hill, the grass is high and many ferns in the woods. I found a field of wheat with high, waving ears, and small white flowers and forget-me-nots and Ranunculus in between. The moon between the treetops, and the birds sang. Then I fell asleep. When I woke it was dark already. I went very slowly down into the valley, past a meadow with many glowworms, if one was very quiet one could hear the crickets. At the farmhouse where we get our milk sometimes, the horse stood outside on the meadow and on the bench sat the farmer and his daughter in a light blouse, and her husband who played the harmonica, but very slowly and it sounded very beautiful. Another meadow with many glowworms, it looks so nice. It reminds me always of Berchtesgarden. My mother and I were together for a week and until the evening we sat beside each other on the balcony of the house and looked at the glowworms. I have prepared some grounds, canvas and paper. I want to do something. I am so uncertain, perhaps something beautiful will come. Your drawing lies on my night table and the postcard is very beautiful.
xxxMonday I will visit your mother.
Michael Pflug postcard to Christiane Schütt, Paris, Summer 1955
Please be content with a postcard once more, I have rested for three days, and completely. On the Sunday then an undescribably beautiful evening in Chantilly in the forest, where I have drawn trees and in the evening returned through the quiet small town, full of old houses with the most marvelous proportions. Waltraud left yesterday, called back by telegram and I started to study again today, exams are on the 10th and the 13th. Perhaps I have really made it, one doesnt find out ahead of time. I feel less sure, than just after the examination. Many thanks for the handkerchief and your beautiful letter and the large red leaf.
xxxLast night I dreamt of Potsdam. I walked along a long dam, below it were orchards in the fog, a loamy soil - I saw you from far away walking towards our house, at last I heard you and my mother call after me. Then I heard somebody say; "Nobody should leave his homeland." I then dreamt once more of you.
Christiane Schütt to Michael Pflug, Paris, Summer 1955
Today I was out in St. Ouen, it is very lonely with factory chimneys, and the small township on the islands and a large meadow. It is nice to stand on the grass, only it is very cold and windy. Besides that it rains a great deal, so that one cannot go out.
xxxMy sore throat is gone, and I notice that I must have been a little delirious the last few days, but that also is quite nice, one sees things so differently and afterwards one is so detached and freed, it is a beautiful feeling, like summer after a long rain. The nights are very cold, the full moon was marvelous with stars and white clouds. Robert has a friend, George, he talks so beautifully of Greece that one wants to go there immediately and as soon as possible, as long as one still is in a state of mind to find things beautiful. However perhaps later one does not have any feelings. I have also met Schwenk and Pikart. He was very nice and I was quite relieved. I had imagined a somewhat dry, slightly agitated Professor without imagination and was surprised how lively and open he was. Perhaps this is also the influence of Paris. He talks well of painting I find, sees very clearly the theoretical without overlooking the "other". He said my paintings could be developed, sometimes the subjects are not well chosen and he showed me various problems. But he said that there was much that was beautiful in them and that is the main thing. In a few days I have to leave now, I am quite unhappy about that. I think something is just starting to free itself and loosen up and I think if I could stay one or two months here, things would become clear in my painting. Sometimes I dont find it quite right, that one has to achieve in a few short months something for which others could use all their strength and time. That probably makes sense even like this. George will go in the winter to India. There are still storytellers in the street, it must be beautiful there.
Christiane Schütt to Michael Pflug, Kupferhammer, October 22, 1955
Many thanks for your long letter. I received it Saturday, I am the first one at home then and I sit at the kitchen table and read it. I also got the card with the animals. The chateau looks very beautiful with the withered walls and the forest around it. I have seen again The Last Bridge , this time from the beginning, one sees the bridge in a Yugoslav town, across the riverbed in a deep ravine, in a wide arch and right and left coupolas and minarets. They walk across the bridge, it is evening and a pursued partisan is shot and falls over the railing into the water. Your Mother also saw it, we were together in it without knowing and met only on the street and we walk together to the Station and I went home. Wednesday I will go back.
xxxMany thanks for the postcard. I have a similar one with a hunting party and a chateau and tonight I dreamt of Nôtre Dame and old houses around it and women in long dresses came down the steps with white bonnets, my Aunt was among them and her friend who is visiting, the sky was very bright and pink clouds and everything so bright and shimmering that I thought of snow and then it started to snow in large white flakes and I walked in the woods, the sun shone on the scintillating snow and a large star was lying on the ground. A few days ago I also dreamt of Nôtre Dame, the boy from the hospital was with me and we sat on a small wall, but the church was very different, high, closed-off stone work and some spots very bright with some towers and one did not know whether it was a mountain or a church. Today I am alone at home, the others went away. I wanted to stay here and wash my hair and write letters and I read the Journal of the Country Priest , it is made up nearly entirely of long conversations and I liked it very much. I do not understand it too well and it is very foreign except for some places. Sometimes he describes how as a child he lived for awhile with an aunt, who had a restaurant for miners and most of the time he sat on the floor behind the counter and did his homework and read the youth of Gorki and later for many years prayed for him every evening. He also had an ulcer and he lived only on bread and wine and is worried about his community, but they all talk past each other and nobody understands him.
xxxI have gotten the hair tonic, one cannot say whether it helps but it can only improve. Otherwise I am not at all as I was when I visited your Mother, only sometimes everything is moving so much up to me and then one has to wait until it has gone again. My Mother wrote that one could study in the Province of Montreal with Senior Matriculation and during the first two terms repeat it and she will do everything to help me. I would have to come first. The 21st of October was her birthday. I sent her photographs, some books and a blouse, as she has so little time she will perhaps enjoy it. I have also still a blue tie of yours, shall I send it or is there time?
xxxThe little boy in the hospital had his tonsils taken out but he is doing quite well again. Tomorrow I will go there. It is so peaceful and quiet when one gets there with the long corridors and the Sisters. Nearly as little as in the Spital in Kitzbühel with the Compassionate Sisters, whom we had to salute in the streets. Many regards.
xxxI was also outside on the hill in front of the window and I have looked how it turned dark. I have drawn a little but I want to try again the hard pencil, with the other everything turns very black and it turned dark so fast that I could not do the sky. It was half past six when I was back home. One can get used to it only with difficulty that it turns dark so early. Sometimes the moon is shining already when I come home a little later, a then crescent above the hill.
Your room probably looks good with a white wall. I am surprised that it was so easy to do it. Carols room in Hamburg was drying for two days that she spend with me and was a lot of work, especially the ceiling when one had to hold the heavy brush up all the time. Afterwards it also was very nice and even her landlady thought that. I am glad that you can go to the Bourgogne, I am thinking of it sometimes, something very beautiful that one can still see. Romain Roland lived in Vezelay, I think, I once heard his wife talk after his death about the house and the garden and what she wanted to do with it, a house for all his friends, who would come when they wanted and also stay as long as they wanted.
Christiane Schütt to Michael Pflug, Kupferhammer, November 2, 1955
It has turned very cold, zero degrees, but the weather is nice. Yesterday was All Saints. We had to work and I was in the hospital. The boy is doing better and was sitting with the others around a table for supper. I was also in the Catholic Cemetery. The tombs were covered with branches of pine trees and everywhere candles were burning, red ones and green ones to and between them the people in mourning. The sky was very clear with a large round moon and stars. I had to think of Kitzbühel, the husband of our laundry woman who carved figures for the manger. His own crèche was so large that it filled half the room for Christmas, with the wells and camels, the three wise men and the suite and the many herdsmen with their cows and sheep. Above the stable a star was hung which one could light up from inside and some of the shepherds had red and blue lanterns. We are working until half past five now and the cold makes me so tired that I do not get to do much else. I am reading a little in the diary of Gide from 1939 to 1942, it ends when he goes to Tunis and he is writing the last pages on the boat.
xxxSomebody gave me a theater ticket "Woizzeck", it wasnt as I had thought it would be and I was glad when I was home again. The moon was shining brightly, the meadows were white from the frost and the valley was so foggy, that one hardly saw the hills. One could think of a large, wide plain. I hope that in Burgundy and Paris it is not so cold, yesterday the house was not heated and one nearly stuck to the radiator it was so cold. Today one got used to it. Many regards. Goodnight.