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Nicolas de Staël

Russian, 1914-1955

Nicolas de Staël was born in 1914 in St. Petersburg, Russia and is one of the most renowned abstract landscape artists of the twentieth century. Celebrated for his explosive, colourful landscapes and still-life paintings, collages and textiles, de Staël was often associated with Tachisme and Lyrical Abstraction as well as making formidable contributions to European Art Informel movement.

In 1919 his family were forced to flee to Poland due to the Russian Revolution. Orphaned, he was sent to live with his older sister in Brussels. It was there that he began his artistic training at the Académie Royal des Beaux-Arts in 1932. After graduation de Staël travelled around Europe and moved to Nice in 1941 where he befriended Jean Arp and Sonia and Robert Delaunay who greatly encouraged him to explore abstraction, leading him to produce his first  abstract compositions. Inspired by the works of Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso, de Staël developed his style further throughout the 1940s and soon began to incorporate heavy impasto into his work, which became a recognisable feature of his work, as well as the reduction of figures and forms to blocks of bold and vivid colour.

In 1945 de Staël had his first solo show at Galerie Jeanne Bucher. That same year he was featured in the Salon de Mai and the Salon d’Automne, both of which brought him critical acclaim. The late 1940s were crucial for de Staël as he was starting to gain attention and became favoured amongst dealers and collectors. By the early 1950’s de Staël’s paintings were also met with considerable success in the United States. He exhibited at a number of prestigious venues in New York such as the Leo Castelli Gallery and M. Knoedler & Co.

As a testament to his achievements in Europe and America, de Staël’s works can be seen in major museums worldwide, such as the MoMA and The Met in New York, The Tate, London as well as the Musée D’Orsay in Paris. He has also had a number of international retrospective exhibitions, most notably at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2003.

After suffering from depression for many years, in 1955 de Staël committed suicide at his studio in Antibes.

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