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Nicolas DE STAEL

(1914 - 1955)


In December 1954, Nicolas de Staël wrote to Jacques Dubourg: “I know that my painting is below the appearances, the violence and incessant fights, it is something fragile in the sense of goodness and sublimity, fragile as love” Nicolas de Staël started painting in 1933 on the North Sea, after his childhood had been broken by the Russian Revolution. In that year he enrolled in the Académie des Beaux-Arts de Saint-Gilles-lez-Bruxelles, and the next year in the Académie Royale. From 1935, Nicolas de Staël travelled around Spain and joined a group who were travelling around southern Europe and North Africa, which made a contribution to his artistic education, and led to a meeting with the painter Jeannine Guillou, in 1938, in the heart of the Moroccan desert. Under the patronage of the Russian émigré painter Rotislas Loukine, in 1935, Nicolas de Staël painted icons; he was initiated into the painting of icons and into a part of his cultural heritage. His first compositions were produced under the influence of Cézanne, but even then his canvases were covered by thick material. In 1942 he got to known Alberto Magnelli, and this encounter headed him in the direction of Abstraction. Nicolas now carried out an incessant and absolute search that in the next ten years (1942-1951) became his everyday life – the painting itself, internal architecture, the harmony of chromatic ranges that were dominated by a unique grey composition. In 1951, the line on the horizon called the figure, i.e. the motif, to inscribe itself on the canvas in its purest formal simplicity. At the same time Nicolas de Staël eked out those years in poverty. In the last part of his life he was surrounded by poets, René Char inviting him to the south of France, for which he departed in 1953. There Nicolas de Staël discovered new colours, the vivid light of the Mediterranean. He oscillated between the “dazzling brilliance of authority and the dazzling brilliance of hesitation”, qualities that he recognised in Matisse and that he applied at every step, advancing his uncertain and fragile equlibria. Nicolas de Staël wrote to Olga de Staël on August 19, 1951: “First of all I have the need to raise my own debates to a new level, breathe humility into them, and this implies getting to know everything that happens in the sky, the movement of the clouds, the shadows, the light, fantastic compositions, or all the elements”. The drawing that is presented here belongs among these last works.

Etude de nu
Etude de nu, 1955

Fusain sur papier
150 x 101 cm

Ce dessin est une de ses dernières œuvres.