Nicolas de Stael



In Tate Modern

Nicolas de Stael 1914–1955
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 803 × 648 mm
frame: 928 × 766 × 70 mm
Purchased 1957

Display caption

De Staël’s paintings emphasise the physical nature of their surfaces. Here he appears to have painted on the front side of a piece of printed fabric. It is possible that he took the fabric’s pattern as his starting point. His typically energetic work is seen at its most explosive here. De Staël explored several sporting themes in his work. He titled this Marathon, perhaps reflecting on his own long, hard struggle to develop a personal artistic style.

Gallery label, June 2020

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Catalogue entry

Nicolas de Sta?l 1914-1955

T00136 Marathon 1948

Inscribed 'Sta?l' b.l. and 'MARATHON' on stretcher
Oil on linen, 31 5/8 x 25 1/2 (85 x 65)
Purchased from Berggruen et Cie. (Grant-in-Aid) 1957
Prov: With Louis Carr?, Paris and New York (purchased from the artist); John L. Senior, Jr., New York, 1950; with Saidenberg Gallery, New York; with Berggruen, Paris
Exh: Advancing French Art, Louis Carr? Gallery, New York, April-May 1950 (26)
Lit: R.V. Gindertael, Nicolas de Sta?l (Paris 1951), p.9, repr. pl.9; Douglas Cooper, Nicolas de Sta?l (London 1961), pp.22-4, repr. pl.8 in colour; Andr? Chastel, Jacques Dubourg, Fran?oise de Sta?l and others, Nicolas de Sta?l (Paris 1968), No.134, p.99 and repr.
Repr: Terry Measham, The Moderns 1945-1975 (Oxford 1976), pl.94 in colour

The title 'Marathon' was probably a reference to the grimness of de Sta?l's daily existence at this period and to his long, hard struggle to evolve a personal style. Most of his paintings of 1946-8 are known simply as 'Composition', but the others tend to have titles of a similar kind, such as (1946) 'Harsh Life'; (1947) 'By Fits and Starts', 'Ravine', 'Resentment', 'Stone Throwing'; (1948) 'The Difficult Path'.

The back of the material on which this picture is painted has a number of scattered angular patches of dull red which form part of a repeat pattern. De Stacl appears to have painted on the front side of a piece of printed fabric and it is possible that he took certain of the shapes and their general disposition as his starting-point.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.702-3, reproduced p.702

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