With its collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art, the Musée de Grenoble offers you a chance to traverse the history of western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Included are major masterpieces of classical Flemish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish painting; one of 20th century Europe’s richest collections; and all the great post-1945 contemporary art trends, right up to the most recent artworks of the 2000s.
Nicolas de Staël, a painter of Russian origin, settled in Paris in 1938. In the early 1940s, he discovered abstraction among artists like Magnelli and Delaunay. His style, consisting of surfaces covered with dazzling colours crushed with a knife or spatula, asserted the power of the stroke. Influenced by the outstanding quality of light in the south of France and Sicily, where he went in 1953, the effects of partial transparency attained by lightening the paint created in his painting a vibrancy and a vitality hitherto never achieved. Earth, sea, sky and architecture were all conveyed through large swathes of colour of varying thickness.
The lower half of the canvas has warm shades of colour applied in thick layers. Standing out against this sand and these ochre lands, we find red, pink and mauve surfaces, and two white squares with irregular outlines. The upper half contains just the green of the sky, whose transparency means that the canvas can be made out beneath. All the lines of the landscape converge towards the central red area, key to the composition. The impasto effects, inconspicuous here, emphatic there, enable the colour to act with a maximum degree of intensity. The juxtaposition of the coloured planes gives visibility to an unpainted edge which calls to mind the technique of torn paper and collage practiced by the artist. By expressing his vision of a natural site through brilliant colours, Nicolas de Staël, the most famous Ecole de Paris painter, turned the landscape into a new genre in modern painting.
Nicolas de Staël
Crédit photographique : Jean-Luc Lacroix/Musée de Grenoble