In the spotlight #2: Arthur Staal
Anonymous, Arthur Staal on motorcycle, arriving in Damascus, 1939, image, NAi Rotterdam, Staal collection
Another beautiful photo from the archives. It is a unique historic image: we see Prix de Rome winner Arthur Staal on a motorcycle on his arrival in Damascus. A historical photograph of a Prix de Rome winner during his trip. This picture is from the Staal Collection, a collection that is housed in the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam.
During the time of architect Staal (this was in the year 1935, in the discipline architecture), the Prix de Rome competition was different than now. The winner of the Prix de Rome at the time - after winning the final round of the competition, the final camp - was sent to travel with a research assignment and a stipend. The trip was predetermined. Staal had two instructions to travel, and a condition for the stipend was that he accomplished his tasks.
The instructions were strict. For the first trip, in the year 1936, Staal was traveling to Spain via France and then crossing the sea to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Greece. The journey continued through Istanbul, Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Paris to Amsterdam.
Arthur Staal, travel plan in 1936, NAi Rotterdam, Staal collection.
Equipped with official documents for the Dutch embassies Staal left on 31 January 1936. The exact duration of the trip was not determined, but he had to be back before December 1, 1936 as the travel vouchers had to be handed to the Director of the Rijksakademie, where the works then would be exhibited. The travel instructions said that Staal had to study the most important buildings, parks and museums in every place he would visit. He had to measure the most important buildings and show them in architectural sketches.
From his notes and pen drawings you can see Staal had great observation skills. He wrote and illustrated impressions of daily life, about the contacts he made with locals and views of impressive and beautiful landscapes. These observations he later largely published in his book Hellas, a journey through Greece (1946) and Beneath the golden sun of the East, a journey through Egypt, Palestine and Syria (1955).
Arthur Staal, the old Palmyra, journey 1939, ink on cardboard, 20,5 x 17 cm, NAi Rotterdam, Staal collection..
Also the second trip was on a motorcycle. Staal set off in March 1939 by boat from Marseilles via Genua to Egypt, it was a trip to the Middle East, Asia, Greece and Italy. In the beginning of January 1940, he came back to Holland. Staal made fifty drawings in his first trip, seventy during the second trip, and also wrote 120 pages about his journey.
End of March 1940 the jury came together for the last time, to discuss whether Arthur Staal was entitled to full stipend. The jury was positive about his skills, especially the way his drawings showed spaciousness and presented the landscapes. Still they thought the drawings were mainly observations, and sometimes a personal interpretation was lacking. But overall they considered Arthur Staal to be a worthy Prix de Rome winner.
For this item (Highlights # 2) the text of Wies van Moorsel, a price for Arthur Staal (1907-1993), has been used, from: Prix de Rome MDCCCVII - MMVIII, Janwillem Schrofer, Marguerite Tuijn, and others, Amsterdam, 2008.