Nicolas de Staël French-Russian, 1914-1955

"You never paint what you see or think you see. You paint with a thousand vibrations the blow that has struck you: how can you be struck and not cry out in anger?"
-Nicolas de Staël


De Staël's painting career spans roughly 15 years and he produced more than a thousand paintings during this time. In 1950 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jacques Dubourg in Paris and Schempp introduced de Staël's paintings to New York, with a private exhibition at his Upper East Side apartment. He sold several paintings to important collectors including Duncan Phillips of the Phillips Collection. After returning to Paris in 1953, de Staël met visiting New York art dealer Paul Rosenberg who offered de Staël an exclusive contract. By the end of the year, the demand for de Staël's paintings was so great that Paul Rosenberg raised his prices and requested additional canvasses for his planned spring 1954 exhibition. Once again this exhibition was both commercially and critically successful. In April 1954, his new paintings marked his departure from abstraction and a return to figuration, still-life and landscape.


Much of de Staël's late work—in particular his thinned and diluted oil on canvas abstract landscapes of the mid-1950s—predicts the Color field painting and Lyrical Abstraction of the 1960s and 1970s. Nicolas de Staël's bold and intensely vivid color in his last paintings predict the direction of much of contemporary painting that came after him including Pop Art of the 1960s. The French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard has stated that de Staël is his favorite painter, and the use of primary colors in his film Pierrot Le Fou was strongly influenced by de Staël's work.