The composition of a picture to and around Nicolas de StaŽl
Beyond the finity

Study of FranÁois Murez -

Extracts of : Le Prince foudroyť - La vie de Nicolas de StaŽl. (Laurent Greilsamer)

The unfinished Concert

    In 1968, the museum of Modern Art of Paris had dared to hang on in its reception hall The Concert. This immense red picture, signed Nicolas de StaŽl, had immediately stood out as the will of a painter meteor.
    At the age of forty one years, before getting rid of what he called his << man's carcass >>, he had put the last touches of his pictorial symphony there.
    Two days before his suicide, in March, 1955, Nicolas de StaŽl had locked himself all day long into a disused tower of the cape of Antibes. He had brushed the bottom of this Concert with fever. On this canvas of 350 on 600 cms, this giant had pressed his fury.
    In the evening, he had put his brushes, rejected the cotton packages with which he liked, at the end of his life, spreading his colors. StaŽl had then raised the heavy frame to prop up it, up, at the bottom of this makeshift studio.
    The next day, he put ochre and silk whites on the jute with this torn gravity which was its trademark. Such a ghost, he still fought, prisoner, according to his formula, of one << inhuman solitude >>
    Only he knew that this canvas would be the last one. But did he know what it carries of hope and revolt?...

Le Concert


... Or the constancy of a choice through the periods, the styles, the ideas...

    Exactly, in January, 1949, Nicolas pulls FranÁoise in Belgium and in the Netherlands. Pilgrimage in the looks of quest: he finds The Night Watch, hardly left of the restoration workshops of the museum of Amsterdam. He greets the regents of Frans Hals on Harleem, analyzes his blacks' pallet. Especially, he rediscovers Hercule Seghers (1589/90 - 1633/38) who appears to him brutally, without that he can otherwise express it, as the other one himself more the centuries. Master of the doubt, so snatched by the painting which he refused to waste time to show his...
Laurent Greilsamer

Hercules Seghers

The rabatment of the small sides of the rectangle is used here under its simplest shape to determine the main axes of the picture.

Horizontal and vertical to the intersections of the meetings of squares and their diagonals, vertical lines drawn up to the intersections give foregrounds, axes of trees, etc...
Simple use of this principle of organization of the picture

Rembrandt, that StaŽl liked very much, succeeds Seghers and possesses some of its works, master for him. How Rembrandt could compose his pictures?


The same principle of rabatment of the small sides of the rectangle.

A horizontal for the height of trees, the other one for the low horizon. We can easily find the diagonal for the right cloud and for the ream of the boat...
Simple use of this principle of organization of the picture

" I thank you for having a day given the life to a being who gave everything to me and gives me every day still... Do not think that the beings which bite the life with so much fire into the heart go away without leaving of imprint... There is one of the men whom the spirit or the work illuminate this world which greeted her according to her greatness. "
Letter of Nicolas de StaÍl to the mother of Jeannine (extracts)

Jeannine Guillou

The same principle of composition which positions the vase and the flowers and the tablecloth

    One afternoon, his friends Marie Raymond and Fred Klein, living in Cagnes-sur-Mer, speak to him about Alberto Magnelli, one of the pionners of the abstraction taken refuge near Grasse, in his simple and magnificent property of La Ferrage. << Present me! >> requested them StaŽl. The meeting, in spring, 1942, will be decisive. Of this Florentine master, he pulls at once the certainty - already so powerfully registered in him - that the life of a painter spells with a sabre, by cultivating the art to break ceaselessly with his own style.
Laurent Greilsamer

Alberto Magnelli

The point of departure is always the same...

But at Magnelli, the composition leans on many more diagonals, horizontals, verticals, quite stemming from the basic organization.
The composition is much more complex than the previous ones. It is not any more a question of livening up a simple landscape, but of ordering complex shapes. Some lines are given, the others again are to be drawn...

    Almost every day, he crosses Paris with bicycle to find Cťsar Domela in the city of Artists, in boulevard Arago. The recommendation of Magnelli is worth blessing. He is welcomed as a child of the house, a prodigal son, by this older cut in the rock...
From 1928, he creates object-pictures where get involved paint and stick, brass and plexiglass, copper and pieces of wood cut and fitted to the hand. His style.
Laurent Greilsamer

Cťsar Domela

Here, Domela leans downright on the composition to place the elements of the object-picture.

All the axes of the picture can meet in this way...

    The first one, Andrť Lanskoy, naked skull and Tartar's eye, suddenly win recognition, becomes the reliable friend, the confidant. They had crossed themselves at Louis Carrť's, they had laughed together with Dina Vierny, alternately whispering in Russian, then exploding in traditional singings. But Lanskoy, then, was still only peripheral...
Laurent Greilsamer

Andrť Lanskoy

As at Magnelli, the composition is complex; it follows the search for numerous pictorial elements which compose the picture.

Only some lines are drawn not to make heavy, but it would be necessary to draw much more to carpenter all this picture.

    Georges and Marcelle Braque do good to him by treating him just like that, with their usual simplicity. << I do not stand this mercantilism, he says to them. - you are right, StaŽl, pay attention! warns him Marcelle. You resisted to the poverty, are rather hardly to resist to the wealth. >>
Laurent Greilsamer

Georges Braque

Braque also uses the composition of squares and declines it to structure his work, full of modesty.

    In London, he stops for a long time in front of Constable, Bonington and Turner. Denys Sutton takes him in front of oil landscapes paintings of Whistler and Sickert. It is from this meditation that are going to arise The Roofs, primitively titled Sky of Dieppe which StaŽl calls moreover so in its correspondence. Double title for a double reading. Are we in front of a picture representing the sky and the pebbles, or the sky and the roofs of Paris? Only certainty: it emits a cosmic strength. The immense sky consisted of a thick material, in the greys, greens and whites, material one thousand worked again times, creased, sand, sewn back on, gives its scale to a majestic canvas which asserts itself just like that. Under the horizon, very low, we find the grey pavements of StaŽl, discreetly heightened by a slender pink net here, by an underlying royal blue there.
Laurent Greilsamer

Les Toits

The elements of the picture confide at once. Simple composition for few elements.
We find there, the relative simplicity of Seghers or Rembrandt.


Some horizontals and diagonals give the main elements of the picture. Simplicity and sobriety.

    A confrontation as the one that we have just begun always highlights the arbitrary power of certain fights of tendencies. So of the abstract and the figurative, today. In Gustave Moreau's certain watercolors, we already have all the Kandinsky of the first period. And in the purity of Mondrian, do not we find the rigor of composition of the Middle Ages? Is the freshness of a Paul Klee lesser than that of Fra Angelico?
Charles Bouleau

This Charles Bouleau's text can clearly apply to the works presented here. Clear example of a Nicolas de StaŽl indeed above the abstract/figurative debate.

Le Concert

The same composition is adopted.

Simple extremely, it bounds unquestionably the piano, the writing desks and the double bass.
So, even at the end of his life, in the suffering of the spirit, the painter job is the strongest and governs a structured construction in a universe in perdition.

An interesting exercise can be led: let us put this representation in black and white.

From there let us pull the rectangle which makes the piano with its equivalent in grey (Grey in 80 %) and the rectangle which makes the double bass with its equivalent in grey (Grey in 40 %).

The surface of the grey in 80 % multiplied by 80 % is of the same weight as the surface of the grey in 40 % multiplied too by 40 %.

So the eye of the Painter balanced these two pictorial elements.

This picture is as a balance. On one side, a musical element of a black tombal, horizontal describing the life and its end, of the other one, the bright element where from flies away a melody, vertical expressing the spirit and its infinity. The scores make the needle.
Both trays still balance each other...
But the Painter is already more the life, no return is henceforth possible.

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Bibliography :
Charles Bouleau, Charpentes - La gťomťtrie secrŤte des peintres. Aux ťditions du Seuil
Laurent Greilsamer, Le Prince foudroyť - La vie de Nicolas de StaŽl