Nicolas de Staël’s “The Shelf” is a post-war oil painting that was created in 1955, the same year in which he took his own life. De Staël’s work is characterized by its innovative approach to abstract painting and color theory, and “The Shelf” is no exception. The piece features overlapping rectangles of bright, saturated color arranged in a grid-like pattern.
At first glance, the shapes appear to be layered on top of one another, creating an illusion of depth. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that each rectangle has been carefully placed next to its neighbor with precision and intentionality. This use of geometric shapes reflects de Staël’s interest in constructivism and the formal elements of painting.
The thick impasto applied with palette knives gives texture to each shape and creates a dynamic interplay between light and shadow across the canvas. Despite its apparent abstraction, “The Shelf” references recognizable objects like books or records stacked up on a shelf, hinting at a playful nod towards representation within this abstract landscape painting.
Overall,”The Shelf” exemplifies de Staël’s unique painterly style that positions him among other great painters who revolutionized Post-WWII art through their own personal expression.