Pierre Soulages

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Pierre Soulages 655446-artiste-pierre-soulages.jpg
Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages (French:  [sulaʒ] ; born 24 December 1919) is a French painter, engraver, and sculptor. In 2014 François Hollande described him as "the world's greatest living artist." [1]

François Hollande 24th President of the French Republic

François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande is a French politician who served as President of France and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra from 2012 to 2017. He was previously the First Secretary of the Socialist Party from 1997 to 2008, Mayor of Tulle from 2001 to 2008, and President of the Corrèze General Council from 2008 to 2012. Hollande also served in the National Assembly of France twice for the department of Corrèze's 1st constituency from 1988 to 1993, and again from 1997 to 2012.



Born in Rodez, Aveyron, in 1919, Soulages is also known as "the painter of black," owing to his interest in the colour "both as a colour and a non-colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens a mental field all its own." He sees light as a work material; striations of the black surface of his paintings enable him to reflect light, allowing the black to come out of darkness and into brightness, thus becoming a luminous colour.

Rodez Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Rodez is a small city and commune in the South of France, about 150 km northeast of Toulouse. It is the prefecture of the department of Aveyron in the region of Occitanie. Rodez is the seat of the Communauté d'agglomération du Grand Rodez, of the First Constituency of Aveyron as well as of the general Council of Aveyron.

Aveyron Department of France

Aveyron is a department located in the north of the Occitanie region of southern France named after the Aveyron River.

Before World War II, Soulages already had toured museums in Paris seeking his vocation and after wartime military service, he opened a studio in Paris, holding his first exhibition at the Salon des Indépendants in 1947. He also worked as a designer of stage sets.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Soulages began to gain recognition in the USA in the 1950s as well. His works were included in the two major exhibitions of European artists, Younger European Painters at the Solomon R Guggenhem Museum (1953) and The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors at the Museum of Modern Art (1955) in New York. [2] In 1979, Pierre Soulages was made a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

American Academy of Arts and Letters honor society

The American Academy of Arts and Letters is a 250-member honor society; its goal is to "foster, assist, and sustain excellence" in American literature, music, and art. Located in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, it shares Audubon Terrace, a complex on Broadway between West 155th and 156th Streets, with the Hispanic Society of America and Boricua College.

From 1987 to 1994, he produced 104 stained glass windows for the Romanesque Abbey church Sainte-Foy in Conques (Aveyron, France). [3]

Conques Place in Occitanie, France

Conques is a former commune in the Aveyron department in southern France, in the Occitanie region. On 1 January 2016, it was merged into the new commune of Conques-en-Rouergue.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Soulages is the first living artist invited to exhibit at the state Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and later with the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow (2001).

Hermitage Museum museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The State Hermitage Museum is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The second-largest art museum in the world, it was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. The museum celebrates the anniversary of its founding each year on 7 December, Saint Catherine's Day. It has been open to the public since 1852.

Tretyakov Gallery Art museum in Moscow, Russia

The State Tretyakov Gallery is an art gallery in Moscow, Russia, the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.

Moscow Capital city of Russia

Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 13.2 million residents within the city limits, 17 million within the urban area and 20 million within the metropolitan area. Moscow is one of Russia's federal cities.

A composition he created in 1959 sold for 1.200.000 euros at Sotheby's in 2006.

In 2007, the Musée Fabre of Montpellier devoted an entire room to Soulages, presenting his donation to the city. This donation includes twenty paintings dating from 1951 to 2006, among which are major works from the 1960s, two large plus-black works from the 1970s, and several large polyptychs.

A retrospective of his art was held at the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou from October 2009 to March 2010. In 2010, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico presented a retrospective of Soulages' paintings that also included an interview-video with the painter (Spanish subtitles).

In 2014, Musée Soulages, opened in Rodez, France, Soulages' hometown. A museum dedicated to permanently displaying his works; plus temporary contemporary exhibitions, Soulages donated 500 works. [4] Made in two separate donations, the paintings represent all stages of his work, from post-war oil paintings to his phase of work called Outrenoir. Together they have formed his most complete display of work from the first 30 years of his career. [5]

Also in 2014 was Soulages' first American exhibition in 10 years, which was jointly hosted at Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin, New York, in which he presented 14 of his recent works.

Artistic Practice

17 December 1966 by Pierre Soulages, Honolulu Museum of Art '17 December 1966' by Pierre Soulages, Honolulu Museum of Art.JPG
17 December 1966 by Pierre Soulages, Honolulu Museum of Art

Soulages has said, "My instrument is not black but the light reflected from the black." [6] Naming his own practice 'Outrenoir', (Beyond Black) the paintings he produces are known for their endless black depth, created by playing with the light reflected off of the texture of the paint. Knowing that he needed a new term to define the way that he was working, Soulages invented 'Outrenoir' to define his practice. Not having a translation into English, the closest meaning is 'beyond black.' In an interview in 2014 he explains the definition of the term, "Outrenoir doesn't exist in English; the closest is "beyond black." In French, you say "outre-Manche," "beyond the Channel," to mean England or "outre-Rhin," "beyond the Rhine," to mean Germany. In other words, "beyond black" is a different country from black." [7]

The infatuation Soulages has with black began long before his investigations with 'Outrenoir' at the age of 60. [8] Initially started by his interest with the prehistoric [7] and his want of retreating to something more pure, primal and deliberately stripped of any other connotations, he says of his fascination with the colour, "during thousands of years, men went underground, in the absolute black of grottoes, to paint with black." [8] "I made these because I found that the light reflected by the black surface elicits certain emotions in me. These aren't monochromes. The fact that light can come from the colour which is supposedly the absence of light is already quite moving, and it is interesting to see how this happens." [7]

Applying the paint in thick layers, Soulages' painting technique includes using objects such as spoons, tiny rakes and bits of rubber to work away at the painting, often making scraping, digging or etching movements depending on whether he wants to evoke a smooth or rough surface. The texture that is then produced either absorbs or rejects light, breaking up the surface of the painting by disrupting the uniformity of the black. [9] [10] He often uses bold cuts in vertical and horizontal lines, the crevasses and forms created by using angles and contours. In his recent work from 2013-14 Soulages began to more explicitly vary the pigment used in the paint, mixing matt and glossy types of black as well as hardened densities of black pigment. [11] Preferring to suspend the paintings like walls, he uses wires to hang them in the middle of the room, "I always liked paintings to be walls rather than windows. When we see a painting on a wall, it's a window, so I often put my paintings in the middle of the space to make a wall. A window looks outside, but a painting should do the opposite—it should look inside of us" [7]

Instead of having titles, Soulages paintings are named by their size and date of production. 17 December 1966 from 1966, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art demonstrates the artist's boldly brushed black on white canvases. [12] The Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), and the Tate Gallery (London) are among the public collections holding work by Pierre Soulages.

Exhibition History

YearSelected Solo ExhibitionGallery/Museum
2016-2017 Noir c'est noir? Les Outrenoirs de Pierre Soulages ArtLab EPFL, Lausanne
2016Pierre Soulages: Le NoirMuseum Folkwang, Essen
2014Pierre Soulages: Les Outrenoir(s)Musée Soulages, Rodez
2014Inauguration of Musée Soulages, RodezMusée Soulages, Rodez
2014Pierre SoulagesDominique Lévy Gallery with Galerie Perrotin, New York
2013Soulages Xxle SiècleVilla Médicis, Rome; also seen in: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon
2010Pierre Soulages, New PaintingsBernard Jacobson Gallery, London
2009Pierre Soulages en Son MuséeL'Expérience RCR Arquitectes, Cité de L'Architecture et Du Patrimoine, Paris
2009Pierre Soulages. Einzelausstellung Zum 90. GeburtstagGalerie Boisserée, Köln
2009Rétrospective Pierre SoulagesGalerie Pacal Lansberg, Paris
2009Soulages. Le Temps Du PapierMusée D'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg
2009SoulagesCentre Georges Pompidou, Paris
2009Pierre Soulages. Hommage Zum 90. GeburtstagGalerie Rieder, Munich
2006Pierre Soulages, Painting the LightSammlung Essl, Vienna
2005Pierre Soulages: Outrenoir, Recent PaintingsRobert Miller Gallery, New York
2003Soulages. L'Œurve ImpriméBibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
2001Pierre Soulages: Lumière Du NoirHermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; also seen in: Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
2000Soulages: 82 PeinturesLes Abattoirs, Toulouse
1999Soulages, Œuvres Récentes, 1994-99Musée Fabre, Montpellier
1997Pierre Soulages: RétrospectiveCentro de Exposiciones y Congresos, Saragosse
1996Pierre Soulages: Noir-LumièreMusée d'Art Moderne, Paris; also seen in: Musée des Beaux-Arts, Monréal; Museu de Arte, Sao-Paulo
1993Pierre Soulages: une rétrospectiveNational museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; also seen in: Fine Arts Museum, Beijing; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei
1992Pierre Soulages: Polyptyques 1979-1991Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc
1991Pierre SoulagesMuseum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna
1989Pierre SoulagesTolarno Galleries, Melbourne
1986Peintures 1984-1986FIAC, Paris; also seen in: Galerie de France, Paris
1982Pierre Soulages: Œuvres Sur PapierGalerie Ponce, Mexico City; also seen in: Oberhessisches Museum, Glessen; Galerie Ostertag, Francfort
1979Pierre Soulages: Peintures RécentesCentre Georges Pompidou, Paris
1975Pierre Soulages: RétrospectiveMuseu de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; also seen in: Musée Fabre, Montpellier; Salas del Patrimonio Artistico y Cultural, Madrid; Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbonne
1973Pierre Soulages: Peintures 1964-1972Palais des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi; also seen in Rädhus Gentofte, Copenhagen; nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg; S.Henie-N.Onstad Artsenter, Hovikodden
1968SoulagesMusée D'Art Contemporain, Montréal, also seen in: Musée Du Québec, Québec
1968Pierre Soulages: Paintings Since 1963Knoedler Gallery, New York; also seen in: Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
1967Pierre Soulages: RétrospectiveMusée National D'Art Moderne, Paris
1966Pierre SoulagesMuseum of Fine Arts, Houston
1963Pierre Soulages: RétrospectiveNY Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
1962Pierre Soulages: RétrospectiveMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston
1960Pierre Soulages: RétrospectiveKestner Gesellschaft, Hanover; also seen in: Folkwang Museum, Essen; Gemeente Museum, The Hague; Kunsthaus, Zurich
1954Pierre SoulagesKootz Gallery, New York

Selected Publications/Monographs

YearPublication Title/Publisher/GalleryEditor/Contributors
2014Soulages in America. (Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York)Texts by Philippe Ungar, Harry Cooper, Sean Sweeney, Dominique Lévy
2011Soulages l'oeuvre imprimé. (Bibliothèque Nationale de France/ Musée Soulages, Paris)Edited by Pierre Encrevé, Marie-Cécile Miessner
2011Pierre Soulages. (Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin/Hirmer, Munich)Essays by Hans Belting, Yve-Alain Bois, Pierre Encrevé, Alfred Pacquement, Serge Guilbaut, Bernard de Montferrand, Alain Seban, Joachim Sartorius, Gereon Sievernich, Hans-Ulrich Obrist; edited by Pierre Encrevé, Alfred Paquement
2010Verre cartons des vitraux de Conques. (Musée Fabre, Montpellier)Essays by Pierre Soulages, Jean-Dominique Fleury, Benoît Decron
2010Pierre Soulages. (Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London)Essays by John Yau and Mel Gooding
2009Soulages, le temps du papier. (Cercle d'Art, Paris/ Musée d’Art Moderne, Contemporain de Strasbourg (MAMCS), Strasbourg)Text by Michel Ragon, Estelle Pietrzyk, Gilbert Dupuis
2009SOULAGES. (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris)Essays by Alain Seban, Alfred Pacquement, Pierre Encrevé, Serge Guilbaut, Yve-Alain Bois, Guitermie Maldonado, Annie Claustres, Harry Cooper, Hans Belting, Isabelle Ewig, Éric de Chassey, Hans Ulrich Obrist; Edited by Pierre Encrevé, Alfred Pacquement
2007Pierre Soulages au Musée Fabre, Parcours d'un accrochage. (Interprint, Montpellier)Photos by Vincent Cunillère; Essays by Georges Frêche, Michel Hilaire, Emmanuel Nebout, Laurence Javal, Olivier Brochet, Yves Larbiou, Dan McEnroe, Thierry Dieudonnat, Pierre Susini, Claude Cougnenc, Pierre Encrevé
2006Pierre Soulages. Painting the light. (Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg-Vienna)Essays by Karlheinz Essl, Andrea Rygg Karberg
2001Soulages - Lumière du noir. (Paris-Musées, Paris)Essays by Mikhaïl Piotrovsky, Suzanne Pagé, Albert Kosténévitch, Pierre Encrevé, JeanClaude Marcadé; Preface by Vladimir Yakovlev, Bertrand Delanoë, maire de Paris
1999Pierre Soulages, Célébration de la lumière. (Skira-Le Seuil, Paris/Musée des Beaux-Arts, Berne)Essays by Sandor Kuthy, Pierre Soulages
1998Soulages, L'oeuvre complet, Peintures III, 1979-1997. (Seuil, Paris)Text by Pierre Encrevé
1997Pierre Soulages, Malerei als farbe und licht, Rétrospective 1946-1997. (Deichtorhallen, Hamburg)Essays by Zdenek Felix, Robert Fleck, Charles Juliet
1996Soulages, Noir lumière. (Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris)Essays by Suzanne Pagé, Jean-Louis Andral, Pierre Encrevé, Robert Fleck, Donald Kuspit, William Rubin
1996Soulages. (Flammarion, Paris: pp. 87–149)Interview with the artist by Bernard Ceysson
1994Pierre Soulages: une retrospective (Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei/National Museum of China, Beijing)Essays by Huang Kuang-nan, Alfred Pacquement, Jean-Paul Réau, François Marcel Plaisant
1994Les vitraux de Soulages (Seuil, Paris)Georges Duby, Christian Heck
1993Pierre Soulages: une retrospective (Musée National d'Art Contemporain, Séoul)Essays by Young-Bang Lim, Alfred Pacquement, Bernard Prague
1992Pierre Soulages, polyptyques 1979-1991 (Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc)Essays by Pierre Daix, Pierre Encrevé, Claire Stoullig
1991Soulages, peintures récentes (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna)Essays by Lorand Hegyi, Alfred Pacquement
1990Polyptyques (Le Louvre, Paris)Text by Isabelle Monod-Fontaine
1989Soulages: 40 jahre malerei (German ed. Museum Fridericianum, Kassel/Cantz Verlag, Stuttgart)Text by Veit Loers, Bernard Ceysson
1989Soulages: 40 ans de peinture (French ed. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes)Essays by Henry-Claude Cousseau, Veit Loers
1989Soulages: 40 anos de pintura (Spanish ed. Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia)Essays by Bernard Ceysson, Veit Loers
1987Nous avons visité le Musée d'Orsay avec Pierre Soulages (L'Evénement du Jeudi, Paris: pp. 82–84)Interview with the artist by Jean-Louis Pradel
1987Pierre Soulages (Musée Saint-Pierre Art Contemporain, Lyon/Hans Thoma-Gesellschaft, Reutlingen)Essays by Georges Duby, Pierre Encrevé, Henri Meschonnic, Werner Meyer, Thierry Raspail, Clément Rosset
1984Soulages (Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo)Essays by Taka Ashido Okada, d'Alfred Pacquement
1980Soulages, peintures récentes (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris/Musée du Parc de la Boverie, Liège)Essays by Pontus Hulten, Alfred Pacquement
1976Soulages (Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Saint-Etienne: p. 5-32, 42)Interview with the artist by Bernard Ceysson
1975L'aventure de l'art moderne (1): Pierre Soulages (Galerie Jardin des Arts, Paris: September, p. 150)Interview with the artist by André Parinaud
1974Soulages, peintures, gravures (1st ed. Musée Dynamique, Dakar/Fundaçào Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon)Text by Léopold Sédar Senghor

Honours and awards

See also

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  1. Hugh Schofield (24 June 2014). "The president and the 'greatest living artist' in the world". BBC News. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
  2. "Pierre Soulages | Artworks, Exhibitions, Profile & Content". ocula.com. 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  3. "Soulages - Pierre Soulages et les vitraux de l'abbatiale de Conques - Ina.fr". Soulages. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  4. Artnet, "Pierre Soulages" Retrieved June 2016
  5. The Museum, Musée Soulages, Retrieved June 2016
  6. Musée Soulages, Rodez Works, A Closer Look, Painting, 324 X 362 cm, 1986 (Polyptyque I) Retrieved July 2016
  7. 1 2 3 4 Interview Magazine, Pierre Soulages, Zoe Stillpass, 5 August 2014, Retrieved July 2016
  8. 1 2 Artnet, Pierre Soulages, Happy to Stay in the Dark, Ben Davis, 19 June 2014, Retrieved July 2016
  9. Jean-Max Albert, Pierre Soulages, Mouvement sans emplacement, Opus International, n°57, 1975.
  10. The Telegraph (online) Black is the new black for Pierre Soulages, France's best known living artist, Claire Rosemberg, 14 October 2009, Retrieved July 2016
  11. Hyperallergic (online), Pierre Soulages: Painter of Black and Light, Robert C. Morgan, 14 May 2014, Retrieved July 2016
  12. Honolulu Museum of Art, wall label, 17 December 1966, accession 4400.1
  13. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1712. Retrieved 23 November 2012.