Nicolas de Staël
- Nicolas de Staël
- Pot à raies
- oil on canvas
Jacques Dubourg and Françoise de Staël, Nicolas de Staël, Paris, 1968, p. 289, no. 668, illustrated
Françoise de Staël, Nicolas de Staël, Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Neuchâtel, 1997, p. 463, no. 698, illustrated
Exh.Cat, Nicolas de Staeël en Provence, Aix-en-Provence, Hôtel de Caumont, Paris, 2018, p.173, illustrated in colour
Caption: Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta, 1949 © ADAGP, Paris 2018
"One never paints what one sees or thinks one sees, one paints with a thousand vibrations the blow received, or to be received, and how can one cry without anger a head in one hand and a platform in the other" Nicolas de Stael wrote to his friend the poet Pierre Lecuire on the 3rd December 1949. This blow received, this muffled cry are unquestionably perceivable in this dazzling canvas painted four years later. Such power, such exaltation in the incandescent reds and the interstitial sedimentation which makes the contours vibrate! With its haunting palette, its chromatic dissonance and its dense and compact surface, Pot à raies admirably translates the devouring passion that animated Nicolas de Staël at the turn of the 1950s and more particularly in 1953 when he discovered Agrigento, Selinunte, Syracuse, and Fiesole. After this trip to Italy, his painting changed forever. It was already powerful; it became exhilarating, extraordinarily frontal and organic, the matter crystallizing beneath the knife strokes, letting through a daring convolution of colour here and there.
Beyond its undeniable plastic beauty, Pot à raies also reveals Nicolas de Staël's artistic practice. The gestures which are both rigorous and unbridled convey all the ambiguity of his unique stance which made him an artist beyond category, who brought a new sense to modernity and took the risk of opening up new, unexplored paths. In contemplating this painting, the spectator can only question the nature of what he is looking at. Is it a relatively traditional still-life, illustrating a vase placed on a wild rose tablecloth, contrasted against a scarlet red wall? Or an abstract composition of almost geometrical construction? Is the artist sublimating the real or is he painting an incandescent world which only he can perceive.
Nicolas de Staël's work is located on the convergence between dream and reality. He may well have hammered home "always, there is always a subject", he took the opposite path to the one taken by Mondrian and Kandinsky a few decades earlier. As Jean-Louis Prat explains in his introduction in the catalogue of the artist's retrospective exhibition at the Fondation Gianadda in 2010, his work tirelessly tackles "the problem that haunted creators of the 20th century between the painting of subject and that of ideas." Always refusing an association with the School of Paris and other abstract painters of his time, Staël played with codes and moved towards the sublime, creating a canvas "fragile like love" according to the expression of the art critic Stuart Preston who studied the works from these years and refused in turn a figurative interpretation.
"All my life, I had a need to think painting, to paint in order to liberate myself from all the impressions, all the feelings, and all the anxieties of which the only solution I know is painting."
Nicolas de Staël, Paris, March 1953 (before his trip to Syracuse and Agrigento in Sicily)