Reference Entry

Staël, Nicolas de

in Benezit Dictionary of Artists

ISBN: 9780199773787
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199899913 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/benz/9780199773787.article.B00174071
Staël, Nicolas de

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Russian, 20th century, male.

Active in France from 1935, naturalised French in 1948.

Born 5 January 1914, in St Petersburg; died 16 March 1955, in Antibes, France.

Painter, collage artist, sculptor, engraver, draughtsman, illustrator. Nudes, portraits, landscapes, seascapes, still-lifes. Designs for tapestries.

Nicolas de Staël was the son of Baron Vladimir Ivanovitch de Staël-Holstein, and as a child he served as a page in the court of the tsar. In 1919, the de Staël family fled the Revolution, emigrating to Poland, then Berlin, and finally to Brussels in 1920. His father died in 1921, and his mother in 1922. He and his two sisters were apparently cared for by an engineer in Brussels, who adopted them. This could have been Emmanuel Fricero, a Russian industrialist who had settled in Brussels. Other sources indicate de Staël studied in an institution created for Russian immigrant children, and that it was the director of the institution itself who adopted him. From that time on, his education was ensured: the classics, Greek, Latin, fine arts, sports and horsemanship. In 1932, he entered the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where he studied with Van Haelen. From the age of 16, de Staël travelled, first to Holland, where he discovered Vermeer, Hals, Rembrandt and Hercules Segers. During his first stay in Paris in 1935, he discovered Cézanne, Braque, Matisse and Soutine. Between 1934 and 1937, he travelled to Spain, Morocco and Algeria. In 1936, he met Jeannine Guillou, a painter, who became his lover and companion. In 1937, he travelled to Italy. During those later years, after he had worked in Brussels as a decorative painter, he lived mostly in Paris in very difficult circumstances. He often frequented the studio of Fernand Leger. In 1939, at the outbreak of the war, he signed up for the Foreign Legion, which took him to Tunisia, before he left, taking refuge first in Nice. He returned to Paris, where he stayed during the years of the German occupation. He became friends with Braque. In 1943, he met Jeanne Bucher, the dealer, who took de Staël, his wife and daughter into her old mansion on Boulevard Montparnasse, where she had a gallery. In 1946, Jeannine Guillou died, and in 1947, he married Françoise Chapouton, with whom he had two boys and a girl. His marriage with a French woman enabled him to become a citizen. He settled in Antibes in 1954. One morning in 1955, his body was found in the small hallway below his workshop on the ramparts of Antibes. The conclusion was suicide. He had been known to suffer from depression....

Reference Entry.  3982 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Painting ; Book Arts and Illustration ; Installation Art, Mixed-Media, Assemblage, and Collage ; Prints and Printmaking ; Sculpture and Carving ; 20th-Century Art

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