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Russian-born painter and printmaker who became a French citizen in 1948. He was born in St Petersburg, son of Baron Vladimir Ivanovich de Staël-Holstein. In 1919 his family was forced to leave Russia because of the Revolution (he would later become incensed if anyone suggested they had ‘fled’) and moved to Poland. Both parents had died by 1922 and Nicolas and his two sisters were adopted by a family of Russian expatriates in Brussels, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, 1932–6. In the next two years he travelled widely (France, Italy, Spain, North Africa), then in 1938 settled in Paris, where he studied briefly with *Léger. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he joined the Foreign Legion and was sent to Tunisia. He was demobilized in 1941 and moved to Nice, where he turned from figurative to abstract art, although the forms he used were usually suggested by real objects.

Text source: A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art (Oxford University Press)


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