Nicolas de Staël

Nicolas de Staël was a celebrated French painter known for his distinctly abstracted landscapes rendered with thickly applied oil paint, often by palette knife. His deeply personal and expressive work features overlapping blocks of densely saturated color, vacillating between representational and the abstract.


Born in St. Petersburg, Russia on January 5, 1914, De Staël studied at the Brussels Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, and spent the majority of his career living in France. He befriended contemporaries such as Georges Braque and Robert Delaunay, and enjoyed widespread critical success. Much of what we consider contemporary painting today—including the Color Field movement—was predicted in his later canvases. Even though his paintings were in high demand in New York and Paris, De Staël’s lifelong battle with depression ended on March 16, 1955, when he leapt from his studio window to his death in Antibes, France.


Today, his works are held in the collections of the Grand Palais in Paris, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among others.

Denise Colomb, Nicolas de Staël, 1954, negative monochrome © Photo: Ministère de la Culture – Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Denise Colomb © RMN-Grand Palais