Though born in Russia in 1914, de Staël's family was forced to emigrate to Poland in 1919 because of the Russian Revolution. His father and stepmother would die in Poland and de Staël was sent with his older sister Marina to Brussels to live with a Russian family.
He eventually studied art at the Brussels Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1932. During the 1930s he travelled throughout Europe, including Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Algeria, eventually settling in Paris in 1938. He also served in the French Foreign Legion for a time.
In 1941, he moved to Nice where he met Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, and Robert Delaunay, and these artists would inspire his first abstract paintings, or “Compositions”.
During the WWII his paintings were included in several group exhibitions and in 1944 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie l'Esquisse. In April 1945 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher and in May 1945 his paintings were included in the first Salon de Mai and the Salon d'Automne. In Paris in 1944 he met and befriended Georges Braque, and by 1945 his exhibitions brought him critical fame.
In1946, thanks to his friendship with artist André Lanskoy, de Staël made a contract with Louis Carré who agreed to buy all the paintings that he produced. In 1947 he befriended his neighbor American private art dealer Theodore Schempp. De Stael's new studio in Paris was very close to Georges Braque’s and the two painters became close friends.
His paintings began to attract attention worldwide. In 1950 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jacques Dubourg in Paris and Schempp introduced de Stael's paintings to New York, with a private exhibition at his Upper East Side apartment. He had considerable success in the United States, and England in the early 1950s. In 1950 Leo Castelli organized a group exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York City that included him. In 1952 He had one-man exhibitions in London, Montevideo, and in Paris. In 1953 he had his first official one-man exhibition at M. Knoedler & Co. in New York City. The show was both a commercial and critical success.
Back in Paris, de Staël met visiting New York art dealer Paul Rosenberg who offered de Staël an exclusive contract. By the end of 1953 the demand for de Staël's paintings was so great that Rosenberg raised his prices and continually requested more paintings. By 1953, de Staël's depression had led him to seek isolation in the south of France. He suffered from exhaustion, insomnia and depression. The demand was so high for his planned spring 1954 exhibition, that Rosenberg requested an additional fifteen paintings. Once again this exhibition was both commercially and critically successful. His new works around this time also marked a move away from abstraction and a return to figurative, still-life and landscape painting. In the wake of a disappointing meeting with a disparaging art critic in 1955 he committed suicide. He leapt to his death from his eleventh story studio terrace, in Antibes. He was 41 years old.
|1952 Figure by the Sea|
|1952 Landscape Study|
|1953 (Abstract Figure)|
|1953 (Abstract Figure)|
|1953 (Landscape cloud)|
|1954 Abstract Figure|
|1954 Le Bateau|
|1954 Marseilles sous la Neige|
|1955 (Boat Harbour)|