The fourth artist from Ménerbes…

Finally the sad fate of the French-Russian painter Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) further suggests that living in Ménerbes is not sufficient to lift your spirits. The abstract artist bought Le Castellet, the little château at the top of the village, in 1953 but didn’t stay long and committed suicide two years later (the property is still owned by his family).

Nicolas de Stael was in fact Baron Nikolai Vladimirovich Staël von Holstein and was  born on January 5, 1914 (December 23, 1913) in St. Petersburg. He died on March 14, 1955 in Antibes.

The career of Nicolas de Staël spread over fifteen years – from 1940 to 1955 – through more than a thousand works, influenced by Cézanne, Matisse, van Gogh, Braque, Soutine and the wild beasts, but also by the Dutch masters Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hercules Seghers.

His painting constantly evolved. From the dark colors of his beginnings (Porte sans porte, 1946 or Ressentiment, 1947), it leads to the exaltation of colour as in the Large Orange Nude (1953). His canvases are characterized by thick layers of paint superimposed, passing from impasto to knife (Compositions, 1945-1949) to a more fluid painting (Agrigento, 1954, Railroad by the sea, Sunset, 1955).

Refusing labels he worked very hard and was notorious for destroying as many works as he painted. “In his frenzy of painting he constantly meets the abyss, finding chords that no one else had dared to attempt before. Painting tense, nervous, always on the wire of the razor, like the last paintings of Vincent van Gogh that he joins in the suicide “, said an art historian.

Nicolas de Staël died at the age of 41, throwing himself from the terrace of the building where he had his lodging and one of his workshops in Antibes. He is buried in the Montrouge cemetery.


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