Nicolas de Staël’s Art at Fondation de l’Hermitage : Repetition , Perfection

“A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the

world and ourselves,” Marcel Proust

If Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) was a novelist he would be Marcel Proust. Proust’s “atmospheric”, long, modernistic descriptions of Combray and Giverny are like Nicolas de Staël’s idyllic landscapes from the recent exhibition at Fondation de l’Hermitage, Lausanne. Repetition and perfection in de Staël’s seaviews point to Proust’s pages, to his memories in 7 novels that are sometimes called a “river-novel”. 

“My mind randomly accumulated (like how my room was gradually filled with flowers I had collected during my walks and with gifts I had received ) a stone with a glare on it, a roof, the sound of a churchbell, the smell of leaves – many different images, beyond which the realiy that I had once vaguely felt, had died, and I still haven’t gathered my strength to reveal its nature,” – writes Proust, his memories and feelings are grouped in dense, layered sentences.

Nicolas de Staël, image from exhibition
Nicolas de Staël, “Agrigente, Menerbes”, 1954. image from exhibition

The artistic language of a passionate modernist N.de Staël is styled in a recognizable, optical in nature technique, that is comparing primal colors( red, blue, yellow).

His colors have independence and carry emotions. “Color gives the appearance of life”, -said Delacroix, but in contrast to tradition, the modernist Nicolas de Staël does not follow old masters, who were focused on dynamics of cold and warm hues, shades and light, and who talked about “earth colors “, “low-tone whites”, “vermilion”, “green of reverse side of an olive leaf”, etc.

Nicolas de Staël, image from exhibition

De Staël (and most modernists of the 20 th century ) took colors from tradition and from extensive color theories and schemes of Seurat ,Oswald and Munsel of 19th century, which were too complex. He just makes us feel color – red, yellow, blue, green– bright, powerful, working on a large scale.

The painting style of Nicolas de Staël never lacked passion as does the spirit of our age.

   Written by: Irina Vernichenko