Distinguished Modernist painter Nicolas de Staël (French, 1914–1955) is best known for his abstracted landscapes and compositions, which feature thick, layered brushstrokes and vibrant color. De Staël was born in Russia just before the Russian Revolution, and his family immigrated to Poland in 1919. He later studied art at the Royal Academy for Arts and Sciences in Brussels, before traveling throughout Europe and then living in Paris. He held exhibitions of his early work in the 1930s, and then in 1939 entered the French Foreign Legion, serving for two years. It was in the early 1940s that he began painting his Abstract compositions, inspired by his meetings with Robert Delaunay (French, 1885–1941) and Georges Braque (French, 1882–1963). De Staël enjoyed critical success with these works, which were exhibited frequently throughout the decade. He moved with his family to Nice in southern France, and continued painting his abstracted compositions, which were acquired by prominent international collectors. Towards the end of his career he turned to representation, depicting still lifes and natural imagery in his work, but retaining his characteristically thick impasto technique. In 1955 at the height of his critical and financial success, de Staël, who suffered from depression, committed suicide. De Staël’s work has since been the subject of retrospectives around the world, at institutions including the Grand Palais and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and at the Musée Picasso in Antibes, France.

Timeline

His family emigrated to Poland in 1919. He was brought up in Brussels, where he attended the Académie Saint Gilles and the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts 1932-4.