Mar 20, 2022

In the second post-war period, Nicolas Stael, born Russian in 1914 in St. Petersburg, the son of a tsarist general, was forced into exile by the Bolshevik Revolution. He will live first in Belgium and then in France, where he will be naturalized, thus becoming French.

He was the most promising artist of the second post-war period, seen as the European Pollock, his abstractionism was highly appreciated in the years preceding the Second World War

His training had taken place during trips to Europe and North Africa but his style changed for the emotions of one evening.

On March 26, 1952, in Paris, during nightime , a rare event for those times, a match of the soccer world cup was held: France-Sweden.

Sweden was represented by amateurs and France by its national champions. The amateurs won and Stael transformed the French defeat into inspiration for a series of paintings that wanted to express the dynamism of the sporting contest by translating it into a new style.

The Footballeurs are small paintings that saw his return to the figure at a time when critics pointed to him as Pollock’s antagonist for his abstraction.

The technique used is a spatula and the figures emerge from the overlapping of layers. If you look at the Footballeurs work published here, it can be seen that the overlapping application of the backgrounds was fast, with the underlying application still not very dry and it is for this reason that a specific type of craquelure can be seen in the dark areas.

A purely visual inspection of the work could, in broad terms, make us understand the succession of the various layers but a reflectography and an X-ray could reveal his modus operandi. Did he draw the composition before painting it? Did he change his mind during construction? What materials did he use? Unfortunately, there are no known scientific publications on this author that report diagnostic analyses used for the study of his works.

We look forward, as it was for Pollock, to a study of his works through radiography, reflectography but also analysis of the pigments used. We would like the “European Pollock” to be better known and valued.

Meanwhile, the French Minister of Culture, Roselune Bachelot, said that France will offer again political asylum to Russian artists who request it because they are against the current government regime.

Emanuela Massa