Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955)
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Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955)

Composition (Peinture)

Details
Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955)
Composition (Peinture)
signed 'Staël' (upper right); signed and dated 'Nicolas de Staël 1949' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
28 5/8 x 36 ¼in. (72.6 x 92cm.)
Painted in 1949
Provenance
Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris.
Maurice Coutot, Paris.
Jacques Wertheimer Collection, Paris.
Arnold H. Maremont Collection, Chicago.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 4 December 1986, lot 636.
Private Collection, Paris.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's Paris, 2 June 2010, lot 8.
Galleria Tega, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
J. Alvard and R. van Gindertael, Témoignages Pour L’art Abstrait, Paris 1952 (illustrated, p. 267).
J. Dubourg and F. de Staël (eds.), Nicolas de Staël, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures, Paris 1968, no. 199 (illustrated, p. 121, with incorrect measurements and date).
F. de Staël (ed.), Nicolas de Staël, Catalogue Raisonné de L'oeuvre Peint, Neuchâtel 1997, p. 661, no. 190 (illustrated in colour, p. 260).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Nicolas De Stäel, Peintures, 1950.
Paris, Galerie Melki, Quatre Russes à Paris (vers les années 50), 1984 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).

Paris, Galerie Schmit, 25e Exposition Maîtres Français. XIXème-XXème siècles, 1987, no. 56 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).

Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Nicolas de Stäel, Rétrospective de l’oeuvre peint, 1991, p. 198, no. 17 (illustrated in colour, p. 61). This exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
Paris, Galerie Schmit, Maîtres Français. XIXème-XX ème siècles, 1994, no. 54 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Nicolas de Stäel: Retrospektive, 1994, p. 190 (illustrated in colour, p. 75).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Sale room notice
Please note this lot should be flagged with a * symbol in the printed catalogue, as a result will incur a 5% import VAT on the hammer.

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Lot Essay

‘I do not set up abstract painting in opposition to figurative. A painting should be both abstract and figurative: abstract to the extent that it is a flat surface, figurative to the extent that it is a representation of space.’ – Nicolas de Staël

Painted during a crucial year of his brief career, Nicolas de Staël’s Composition (Peinture), 1949, is a patchwork of thoughtful tones. The thick, tactile of-white paint both conceals and uncovers slabs of burnt sienna and heliotrope-tinted blue. Using both brushes and a palette knife, de Staël heaped paint onto the canvas, conveying a sense of dense materiality, expressed through the formal qualities of colour. 1949 was a transformative year in the artist’s career, during which he greatly pared down his colour palette to the muted shades of white, yellow, black and grey, with the occasional daub of green, red or blue, ‘the refection of raging turmoil succeeded by utter calm’ (P. Granville, ‘de Staël, a Quarter of a Century Later’, Nicolas de Staël, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1981, p. 9). It was then, too, that he began applying paint with a knife, building up his pictorial surfaces into distinctive zones of colour. It was in this period that de Staël began titling his works ‘composition’, intent on provoking a response to the formal qualities of the work. He was fascinated by the interplay and choreography of tones, preoccupied with chromatic relations; this was an attempt ‘to divide his vision of the external as the internal world into a series of coloured passages that corresponded to a harmony that arose from this juxtaposition’ (D. Sutton, ‘Nicolas de Staël’, Nicolas de Staël, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1981, p. 14). Still, many of his paintings were inspired by his own observations of the countryside, dilapidated walls, and what art historian Denys Sutton described as ‘views that exist in the haze of half life, which occurs when reality and dream intermingle, or in the mysterious yet alert stillness of the snow world’ (D. Sutton, ‘Nicolas de Staël’, Nicolas de Staël, exh cat., Tate Gallery, London, 1981, p. 14). Although concerned with fashioning a new style in art, de Staël nevertheless understood his work to be in dialogue with the past. Born in St. Petersburg to an aristocratic family, he was forced to emigrate after the revolution, and during these itinerant and unstable years, his travels were marked by a voracious consumption of art’s history. De Staël was living in Paris by 1944, and had become friends with Georges Braque, hi neighbour in the 14th arrondissement, and to whom he would subsequently refer to as the greatest living painter. Braque’s support encouraged de Staël’s new interrogation of tone and compositional fatness. By 1949, the year Composition (Peinture) was painted, he had developed his own singular aesthetic, inspired in part by this friendship but also his reverence for older European art including works by Rembrandt, Delacroix, Matisse and Van Gogh. Composition (Peinture) presents a world forged out of the past, a new landscape of abstraction that makes colour both representation and form.

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