Light-filled and overlooking the sea, as well as being one of the temples of modern landscape painting Le Havre‘s modern art museum was designed during the very years when de Staël began to reintroduce figurative elements into his paintings, working in the Ile-de-France, the South of France and Normandy.
In what was to be a meteoric artistic career, between 1942 and 1955 Nicolas de Staël produced a body of work widely acknowledged to be one of the freest of the postwar period. After an abstract phase, just as abstract art was prevailing, he moved on to a style of painting that reconnected with reality, nature and landcape, transcending the apparent opposition between abstract and figurative art.
During 1951, the woodcuts de Staël made for a book entitled Poèmes – produced with René Char – helped him form a new conception of the pictorial space. At the end of the year, his painting opened up completely to the contrasting lights of the Ile-de-France, Normandy, the Midi and Sicily.
For the period between the beginning of 1952 and March 1955, landscapes - mainly seascapes - represent slightly over half of his output.
For de Staël, landscape did not mean the picturesque or accurate depiction of a location, but primarily light, space and the elements. He painted studies from nature and produced ink and felt-tip drawings on his travels, then reworked the subjects in the studio, constantly inventing new forms and moving from using thick layers of paint to using paint so diluted as to be almost transparent.
This exhibition will comprise over 130 works (80 paintings and 50 drawings) produced between 1951 and 1955. A quarter of them have either never been exhibited at all or never been exhibited in Europe.