Details & Cataloguing



Nicolas de Staël
1914 - 1955
signed Staël (lower right)
oil on canvas
22 x 33 cm ; 8 11/16 x 13 in.
Painted in 1954.
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Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris 
Galerie Jan Krugier, Genève
Galerie Ariel, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner


London, Gimpel Fils Ltd, Nicolas de Staël, 18 June - 13 July 1963; catalogue, np., no. 25, illustrated
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Nicolas de Staël, 1963; catalogue, p.5, no. 24


Jacques Dubourg et Françoise de Staël, Nicolas de Staël, Catalogue Raisonné des Peintures, Paris 1968, p. 335, no. 832 , illustrated
Françoise de Staël, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1997, p. 571, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1954, a decisive year that marked Nicolas de Staël's tremendous  success overseas thanks to Paul Rosenberg and the major exhibition he held in his upper East side gallery, Bol Gris is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished works by the artist who is today widely recognized as one the greatest painters of the 20th century ever realized.

Exhausted but happy with the quality of the work he delivered to the legendary New York art dealer – "Here you'll find, in addition to what I've already sent, enough to put together the most beautiful exhibition I have ever had", he writes in one of his letters to the gallery owner-, Staël took on a new direction, tackling still life completely differently, which will prove decisive to his later work. With its subtly nuanced palette of colours, its delicate impastos and its extremely refined chiaroscuros, Bol Gris bears witness to the major changes at play in the painter's practice at the turn of the 1950's: it is a rare combination of the series of consecutive innovations Staël introduced in his compositions after his arrival in Paris fifteen years earlier.

Looking at it closely, Staël's dexterous effort in the upper half of the canvas to bring a touch of light which oozes onto the surface of the work also reveals the extent of his technical mastery. The eminent art critic Roger Van Gindertaël made no mistake when writing in the famous Cimaise review that, with the series of works Bol Gris was part of, "Staël shows he is rising up to the challenge of a new figuration, I mean, a figuration once again outperformed." And it was indeed with this tour de force, crystallized in Bol Gris, which consists in abolishing the boundary between figuration and abstraction that Staël forever altered the course of art history.