L’ORCHESTRE, NICOLAS DE STAËL, 1953

When I first saw this piece at the Pompidou (Paris) it was completely obscure for me: I saw it as absolutely abstract, with no figurations at all. I chose not to look at the title first, to have a spontaneous impression of it before knowing the artist’s intentions. After some seconds, i noticed the black human silhouette in the front, and the perspective of the two black triangles on the sides made me think about a foggy street.

Then I looked at the title: L’Orchestre. And I started seeing the painting as such: there are some other people visible in the background, some music instruments, the man in the front can be the orchestra director. There is some figuration then: abstraction and figurative painting seem to join in this painting with their perfect combination.

Although the title of the painting suggests something related to music, the impression you have in front of it is of total silence. The orchestra director is still, the arms are invisible, the musicians are grey and white. You can interpret this dichotomy between music and silence as you wish: maybe silence is music after all?

Below you have a scheme of the painting that points out the different recognizable shapes.

L'orchestre de Nicolas de Staêl
Explicative diagram by Regard Au Pluriel
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