Our Artists

Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages started to paint when he was still very young. By the time he was 30, he was already a recognised artist, well known for his paintings, which were predominantly black, abstract and sombre. From 1979, he created “light-black” and “beyond black”. A large number of exhibitions of his work have been organised in France and abroad since 1948. His paintings are in the collections of over a hundred museums worldwide. To celebrate his 90th birthday in October 2009, the Pompidou Centre will be dedicating a retrospective to Pierre Soulages, the biggest ever offered to a living artist.


Birth of the artist

As a youngster, Pierre Soulages became interested in Romanesque art and prehistory. He then started painting.

At the age of 18 he went to Paris to prepare for becoming a drawing teacher and for the entrance examinations for the “Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts”. He passed the exam but decided not to take up the place and returned to Rodez. During his stay in Paris, he visited the Louvre Museum. He also saw exhibitions of Cézanne and Picasso, which were revelations to him.

He was called up to join the army in 1940, then demobilised in 1941. As Paris was occupied, he left for Montpellier, where he spent a lot of time at the Musée Fabre. When Montpellier was occupied in turn, Pierre Soulages went underground for a period, during which he no longer painted.

It was not until 1946 that he found time to take up painting again. He moved to the Paris suburbs and found a studio in Paris, in rue Schoelcher.

He gained a reputation for his paintings, which were predominantly black, abstract and sombre. They were different from the semi-figurative, highly colourful painting of the post-war period.


> 1948

Pierre Soulages took part in exhibitions in Paris and Europe, including “Französische abstrakte Malerei” in a number of German museums.
He was the youngest of a group of painters made up of the leading masters of abstract art: Kupka, Doméla and Herbin. The poster for the exhibition reproduced one of his paintings in black and white.

> 1949

A personal exhibition in Paris, at the Lydia Conti gallery.

Group exhibitions in New York, London, Sao-Paulo and Copenhagen.

> 1949 to 1952

Designs for theatre and ballet sets.

First etchings at the Lacourière studio.

Other group exhibitions in New York and several American museums: “Advancing French art”(1951), “Younger European artists” Guggenheim Museum (1953), “The new Decade”, Museum of Modern Art (1955).

Regular exhibitions at the Kootz Gallery, New York and the Galerie de France, Paris.

> From the early 1950s, his works were acquired by the Phillips Gallery, Washington, the Guggenheim Museum and the New York Museum of Modern Art , the Tate Gallery in London, the Musée National d'Art Moderne de Paris, the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, etc.

> 1960

The first retrospective exhibitions in museums in Hanover, Essen, Zurich and The Hague.

> 1979

Exhibition at the MNAM - Georges Pompidou Centre.

> 1987 to 1994

He produced 104 stained glass windows for the Abbey Church in Conques.

Light-black and Beyond black

In January 1979, Soulages was working on a painting: he had been adding and removing black for hours. Not knowing what else to do, he left the studio, completely at a loss. When he came back two hours later: “Black had taken over everything, to such an extent that it no longer existed”. This experience marked a turning point in his work. That year, he exhibited his first single-pigment paintings at the Georges-Pompidou Centre. These were based on the reflection of light on the striated surface of the black. Soulages was responsible for the term “outrenoir”, meaning “beyond black”. He said “I like the authority of black. It’s an uncompromising colour. A violent colour, but one that encourages internalisation. Both a colour and a non-colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens up a mental field all of its own”.

Useful links

- The official Pierre Soulages website

- Pierre Soulages on Wikipedia

Pierre Soulages 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters Peinture, 12 juin 1989 - 130 x 130 cm

Nationality(ies) : French
Born on : 24/12/1919
Profile : Painter
Artistic current(s) : Abstract art
Theme(s) covered : Fine Art, Details, Colors and materials

Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages