Following his training as a painter at the Royal Academy of the Arts in Berlin and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Hans Lietzmann moved to Torbole on the northern shore of Lake Garda in 1899. The fishing village of Torbole was particularly popular with German-speaking artists and Lietzmann had known it since his youth. He acquired a small olive grove a short distance from the village and built himself a house which he named the Café Paradiso. Attached to the house was a studio where he set up a private painting school to teach nude and landscape painting.
The depiction of the landscapes of Lake Garda with their Alpine views and Mediterranean climate is central to Lietzmann’s oeuvre. Their rugged rock formations, stony shorelines and typically somewhat sparse vegetation were his preferred subjects. This choice of subject matter naturally obviated the risk of lapsing into a mellifluous, quaintly sentimentalized style of landscape portrayal. The sections of landscape he chose to depict seem randomly chosen rather than consciously composed. He preferred to work before nature, en plein air, and his style of execution straddles the line between Realism and Impressionism. His aim was to represent an accurate portrayal of the motif and to capture distinctive atmospheric and lighting effects depending on the time of day and the season. The originality of his oils and gouaches lies in the vigour and agility of his brushwork, in his subtle handling of the play of light and shadow, and in the colouristic vibrancy of his palette with its rich chromatic contrasts, all of which lend his compositions a remarkable energy and emotional charge.
The outbreak of World War I put an end to what was undoubtedly the happiest and most productive period in Lietzmann’s life. He served in the Army as an official war artist producing illustrations of life on the Western front. On his return to Torbole he found that his house and studio had been completely destroyed in the fighting. Soon afterwards, all his property – like that of every citizen of a former opposing side in the hostilities – was expropriated by Italy’s new Fascist regime. Now destitute, but as an artist still highly regarded by the local population, Lietzmann nevertheless resolved to stay in Torbole, where he spent the following three decades eking out a modest existence in seclusion.