Post-War & Contemporary Art Auction
June 7 at 7pm at Tajan in Paris
PARIS – Tajan’s Contemporary Art department is pleased to announce the exclusive sale of La part du Vent, an oil on canvas painted by Nicolas de Staël (1914-1955) in 1944-45, which will be sold as lot 7 at the “Art d’Après-Guerre & Contemporain” auction on June 7.
“In the canvasses from this period, ‘44, ‘45, ‘46, we see the drawing becoming less and less prominent and the thickness of the paint increasing. During this period, he painted La part du vent, Composition en noir, Port Manech […]. The colour goes from black to greygreen, dark greens, earthy greys and black greens, the light comes out of the canvas in blades. The colours yellow, blue and red emerge like a shard of stained glass. Fires down below send up their embers around the black forms and the weight of these forms alone hones the blades of light. The medium is velvety and rich, like the surface of the high seas.”
Anne de Staël
in F. de Staël, Nicolas de Staël catalogue raisonné, Neuchâtel, 1997, p.102
NICOLAS DE STAËL (1914-1955)
La part du vent, 1944-1945
Oil on canvas; signed lower lef
447/8 X 571/2 IN.
500 000 / 700 000 €
Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Nicolas de Staël, 13 September-20 October 1957, listed under no. 4 in the exhibition catalogue
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Staël, 11 July-24 September 1972, reproduced under no. 5 p. 51 of the exhibition catalogue
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 22 May-24 August 1981; London, The Tate Gallery, 7 October-29 November, Nicolas de Staël, reproduced under no. 7 p. 27 of the exhibition catalogue
Parma, Fondazione Magnani Rocca, Nicolas de Staël, 10 April-17 July 1994, reproduced under n°3 p. 61 and described on p. 200 of the exhibition catalogue
Antibes, Musée Picasso, La rencontre Nicolas de Staël Jeannine Guillou, La vie dure, 9 October 2011-8 January 2012, reproduced p. 83 of the exhibition catalogue
La Part du vent, a major painting produced by Nicolas de Staël between 1944 and 1945, highlights a pivotal period in the artist’s career when the relentlessness in [his] paintng, halfway between despair and a sense of happy fulfilment, brings his painting to a peak that foreshadows profound changes”. After his initial figurative paintings, Staël moved on to abstract compositions in 1942, no doubt as a result of his association with Alberto Magnelli, whom he met that year in Grasse and whose work he deeply admired. He was not yet 30. Back in Paris in September 1943, with Jeannine Guillou and their two children, he met Domela who had been referred to him by Magnelli. The Dutch artist, a great figure of abstract painting, had been living in Paris for ten years and would go on to become an essential figure for the young painter. In Paris, a city scarred by years of deprivation and oppression, Staël paradoxically found a form of artistic exaltation. “Paris has a unique air of dignity, I’ve never seen it so beautiful. We are still thrilled to be living in such a palace, everything is easier than in Nice. And there is this feverishness of work that really grips you whereas it is so dificult in Nice” he wrote to Magnelli. Abstraction was a symbol of resistance and Jeanne Bucher, who was at the time one of the avant-gardes’ biggest advocate, was the first to promote the young Staël. And so, on 6 January 1944, shrouded in the utmost secrecy in order to avoid censorship, she put together an exhibition entitled “Kandinsky (paintings and gouaches) – César Domela (three object paintings) – Nicolas de Staël (paintings and drawings)”. Although few paintings were sold, it was an opportunity for Staël to meet a number of art lovers and artists, including Georges Braque, the industrialist Jean Bauret and André Lanskoy. The later, who had moved to France in 1921 and had evolved towards fully abstract expression by 1938, encouraged the artist to continue his 1942 formal research, providing him with what he felt “was still lacking: a rich, thick, coarse material where dark tones and bright colors come together in harmony”.
In contrast to his later work, featuring vivid colors and pared-down forms, the artist’s work was then dark and rich in textural eﬀects. This color palette and the thick layers of pigment suggest a certain darkness that reﬂects the troubled atmosphere of the time and the artist’s personal dificulties. “The lack of money to buy colors – even though black or white were relatively cheap, whereas red or yellow were at a premium – is not the reason for the tone of these paintings, which so sensitively shape the light into the darkness. These connections are a ‘need of the soul’ – a Gregorian chant –, which, in the concentration of three notes, sounds out all their possibilities and creates a colorful intensity” writes Anne de Staël.
From this dark palete, which, in La Part du vent, ranges from black to grey-green, dark greens, grey earths and black-greens, bursts of light seem to emerge from the depths. Blues, pinks and whites shine through as if they were seen through a fragment of stained glass. The viewer’s eye finds no escape in the tumult of the composition’s curving and straight lines, where a tension prevails between abstraction and figuration. Nor does the artist oppose the two approaches. As René Micha writes, “he wants both: a painting that is ‘abstract as a wall, figurative as a representation of space’.” In this sense, La Part du vent clearly reﬂects the ambivalent approach that would manifest throughout the artist’s career. Anne de Staël describes it this way: “Figure and abstraction are bound to each other. […] In connection with La Part du vent, which, in its combined details, circles an ark shaken by a storm that recomposes the whole into a new world. The windows, some unlit, others illuminated within the composition of these various blades honed into triangles, driven into the fallout of the wave that has upset everything as it ‘recomposes’.
Shown on several occasions, including major retrospectives at the Kunsthalle in Bern (1957), the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris (1981) and the Tate Gallery, London (1981), La Part du vent sheds light on the artist’s unique treatment of abstraction. In the words of Marie du Bouchet, “With La part du vent […] Staël found the articulation of an inner vision that would go on to define the elements of a personal poetics to be found consistently in his later work.” Its provenance also atests to the deep friendship between Staël and a Parisian circle in a culturally ﬂourishing late-war Paris. In fact, La part du vent was once owned by Louis Gabriel Clayeux, a faithful friend and admirer from the beginning. As Louis Carré’s assistant, he negotiated a contract for Staël with the famous gallery owner the following year and kept the painting in his collection for almost forty years.