Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages is French abstract painter, engraver, lithographer and designer. In 2014, François Hollande, French president, described him as ‘the world's greatest living artist.’ He is particularly known as ‘the painter of black’.

Pierre Soulages was born in Rodez, Aveyron. As a youth, he is soon impressed by the prehistoric and Romanesque art of the region. The 3,000-year-old monoliths scattered near his home in the Aveyron region particularly fascinated him. He has kept to his provincial roots. He and his wife are currently dividing their time between Paris and their house overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Sète.

After a first aborted attempt to study painting in 1938, he finally settled in Paris with his wife in 1946 and resumed painting. He made his first non-figurative works in 1947 with black signs in heavy brushstrokes on a light ground. After moving to Paris in 1946, Pierre Soulages began using walnut stain to make gestural abstract paintings on paper.

By the 1950s, Soulages had begun using oil on canvas, using looser, slashing brushstrokes, later sometimes with more fluid washes of colour. He created compositions of black bars in front of a white ground influenced by East Asian calligraphy, which Soulages learned about while traveling in Japan. Between the period of 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Soulages’s work was seen as a kind of French analog to the Abstract Expressionism of New York School artists like Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick and Robert Motherwell. A turning point in his career is marked by his Outrenoir (Beyond the Black) series of black monochromatic paintings, which he began in 1979. Pierre Soulages has explained that he works with the light reflecting on the canvas. Striations of the black surface of his paintings enables him to make the light reflect, allowing the black to come out from darkness and into brightness, thereby becoming a luminous color.

Long before Mr. Soulages made a name for himself in France, American museums were purchasing his paintings, beginning with the Phillips Collection, in 1951, and then the Museum of Modern Art, in 1952. Pierre Soulages’s work can be found in museums around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Tate Gallery in London.In 2001, he became the first contemporary artist to be exhibited at the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg. Soulages has held several retrospectives throughout Europe. His most recent exhibitions include a large-scale retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, celebrating his 90th birthday. He has also received many fellowships and awards, notably La Legion d’Honneur, in Paris (2015); the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art in Vienna (2006); the Premium Imperial Prize for Painting, Japan Art Association in Tokyo (1992); Foreign Honorary Member for Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (1979).

  • Masters of Distinction

    Masters of Distinction

    Singapore

    September 16, 2016 - October 16, 2016

  • Abstract Experiences: Beyond the Real

    Abstract Experiences: Beyond the Real

    Hong Kong

    May 23, 2014 - June 13, 2014

  • Visions of Abstraction

    Visions of Abstraction

    Dubai

    March 11, 2014 - March 25, 2014

  • In Black & White

    In Black & White

    Geneva

    December 06, 2013 - December 21, 2013

  • Entering Abstraction

    Entering Abstraction

    Geneva

    June 07, 2013 - June 22, 2013

  • Contemporary masters

    Contemporary masters

    London

    February 17, 2012 - March 02, 2012