1914 St. Petersburg
The Russian-French painter Nicolas de Staël was born on January 5, 1914 in St. Petersburg. After the early death of his parents (1921 and 1922), he and his sister were raised by wealthy friends of the family in Brussels. With their help, Nicolas de Staël received a classical education and entered the Brussels Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts and the Académie des Beaux-Arts de Saint-Gilles-lès-Brusselles in 1933. In 1936, the artist travelled to Morocco with several other painters. He met painter Jeannine Guillou (1906–46), who became his life partner , during this visit. In the winter of 1938, the two returned to Paris together. De Staël became acquainted with art dealer Jeanne Boucher here, who was interested in his artistic works.
In 1939, the painter left Paris to serve in the Foreign Legion in Tunesia. After his return, he lived in Nice with Jeannine Guillou and encountered the artists Alberto Magnelli (1888–1971), Sonia Delaunay-Terk (1885–1979), Henri Goetz (1909–89), and Félix Aublet (1903–78) here. Under their influence, Nicolas de Staël‘s painting of representationalism developed into abstraction. In 1943, the artist returned to Paris with Guillou and contacted the architect Pierre Chareau (1883–1950) through the mediation of Jeanne Boucher.
At Alberto Magnelli’s recommendation, de Staël met the painter César Domela (1900–91). This contact prompted the artist’s increasing interest in the light and shadow play in his paintings. In January 1944, Jeanne Bucher exhibited paintings and drawings by de Staël together with the works of Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) and Domela at her gallery. In the same year, the first individual exhibition by the artist was shown at the Galerie L’Esquisse; in 1945, additional exhibitions took place at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher and Salon d’Automne.
In 1946, his life partner Jeannine Guillou died. However, he already married the artist Françoise Chapouton in the following year. Starting in 1950, Nicolas de Staël began exhibiting at the gallery of art dealer Jacques Dubourg. At the individual exhibition at the Matthiesen Gallery in London in 1951, the painter presented his first works showing a return to representationalism.
From this time on, de Staël increasingly displayed representational works in his exhibitions such as those at the Galerie Jacques Dubourg and Salon de Mai in Paris. At the M. Knoedler & Co. Gallery in New York, the artist personally supervised the hanging of his works in 1953. This individual exhibition displayed 33 paintings (created between 1948 and 1952), as well as drawings and lithographs. In 1954, he exhibited at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery in New York. That same year, after many exhibitions and journeys, he left his family and retreated to Antibes. He created numerous still lifes, landscapes, and sea pieces here.
On March 16, 1955, Nicolas de Staël, plagued by artistic doubts and depressions, took his own life by jumping from the balcony of his studio in Antibes.