Lot 13
  • 13

Nicolas de Staël

700,000 - 1,000,000 EUR
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  • Nicolas de Staël
  • Méditerranée
  • signed Staël (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 38 x 81 cm; 15 x 32 in.
  • Executed in 1952.


Collection of the Artist
Theodore Schempp/M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
Mrs. Stanley Resor, New York (acquired from the above in March 1953)
Stephan Hahn, New York
Galerie Alex Maguy, Paris
Galerie de l’Élysée, Paris
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (acquired from the above in October 1969) 
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Property from the Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon, 10 November 2014, lot 21
Private Collection, New York


New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Nicolas de Staël, Paintings Drawings and Lithographs, March 1953; catalogue, n.p., no. 45 


Jacques Dubourg and Françoise de Staël, Nicolas de Staël, Paris, 1968, p. 183, no. 360, illustrated
Françoise de Staël, Nicolas de Staël: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Neuchâtel, 1997, p. 378, no. 497, illustrated

Catalogue Note

In 1952, Staël reverted back to painting from nature, shifting his style from abstraction back to a figurative approach. During a time when Europe was answering to Abstract Expressionism in America, he bravely directed his style to the more classical genres in Art History: landscapes, nudes and still lives, focusing mainly on marine landscapes until his untimely death in 1955. With his sensibility and ability to transform his environment by his poetic vision, Staël combined abstraction and figuration into innovative harmony.

In May 1952, escaping the familiar north of France, he rediscovered the south and its dazzling light – like Matisse when he discovered Corsica, he was utterly fascinated. "Light is simply flashing here, much more than I remembered. I will create scenes of sea, beach, taking its brightness to the edge if all goes well, and also of nocturnal shadows", he wrote to Jacques Dubourg in May 1952.

The Mediterranean would leave an indelible mark on the artist, filling his works with lucidity provoked by the bright sun of the Midi. Intimately familiar scenes were born, painted not from what he saw but from what he felt – lyrical, semi abstracted patterns were depicted on surfaces split with bands of colour, indicating distant visual planes, culminating in the bluest sea dissolving into sky. 

Using dazzling pink, green and aquamarine blue against the deepest blue of the darkest night or sea, Staël impeccably played movement against absolute stillness in this beautiful work, Méditérranée, which was part of Mr. and Mrs Paul Mellon's Collection for forty-five years.