Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages

Known as “the painter of black and light,” Pierre Soulages has forged a career remarkable not only for its rigorous invention, but for its longevity. Since the postwar period, the artist has evaded participation in such movements as Abstract Expressionism, tachism, and informel—rather contextualizing his paintings in terms of vitalism, classicism, and prehistoric forms. Already in 1948, he refused the terms of lyrical abstraction: “Painting is not the equivalent of a sensation, an emotion, or a feeling; it is the organization of colored forms, on which is made and unmade a meaning that we impose on it.” Soulages has explored such contingency predominantly with the color black, arriving at tactile canvases which might recall nocturnal landscapes or charred earth. Since 1979, he has pursued his series Outrenoir, whose title is a portmanteau Soulages defines as “beyond black.” With these variously gouged, scraped, and slicked tar-like surfaces, he transforms the spatial and temporal dimensions of painting. Critic Donald Kuspit once described the abstractions as “negatively sublime”—they inflect obdurate materiality with the mercurial aspects of light, achieving the effect of the immeasurable.

As a child, Soulages was drawn to the prehistoric menhirs found in his hometown of Rodez and the Romanesque architecture of the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy in nearby Conques, and he would paint winter trees in black on a brown background, rendering branches in such a way to suggest movement in space. These early influences and endeavors would go on to shape his work for seven decades. In 1938, he moved to Paris to train as a drawing teacher and take the entrance exam for the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Though he was accepted, he declined the offer, dissatisfied with the school’s mediocre standards. He returned to Rodez newly inspired after visiting exhibitions of work by Cézanne and Picasso. He was soon conscripted into French military service, but he forged papers to avoid mandatory labor for the Nazi party and spent the occupation in central France working as a wine producer.

In 1946, Soulages returned to Paris to devote himself to painting, and he eventually settled into a studio on Rue Schoelcher near Montparnasse. He first exhibited his paintings—bold, flat marks of walnut stain on paper—in the Salon des Surindependents of October 1947, where he caught the attention of Francis Picabia. The following year would prove significant to Soulages’s exposure throughout Europe and the United States: He was the youngest artist to be included in Grosse Ausstellung Französische Abstrakte Malerei (Grand Exhibition of French Abstract Painting), the major traveling exhibition of abstract art organized by the Württembergische Kunstverein in Stuttgart; and James Johnson Sweeney, the future director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, made a visit to Soulages’s studio after hearing talk in Paris of a painter who worked in black with broad brushstrokes.

In 1949, the artist mounted his first solo exhibition at Galerie Lydia Conti in Paris, and his paintings were included in a group exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, where his work was received as a French analog to that of the New York School artists. In 1950, his paintings were juxtaposed with those of Franz Kline in the acclaimed exhibition Young Painters in the US and France, curated by Leo Castelli at Sidney Janis in New York. Three years later, Sweeney included the artist in Younger European Painters at the Guggenheim, alongside Karel Appel, Alberto Burri, Hans Hartung, and Victor Vasarely, among others. Before the exhibition closed, Soulages had signed with the legendary Samuel Kootz Gallery, where he had his first solo exhibition in New York just two months later. Soulages’s first retrospective was presented in 1960 at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, followed by iterations at the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and Kunsthaus Zürich. His first American retrospective was held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1966. There, he suspended his paintings, back to back, from cables attached to the ceiling so that they appeared to float freely in space. The following year, the first retrospective dedicated to Soulages in France was presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

In 1979, Soulages debuted his “mono-pigmented” black paintings at the Centre Pompidou, inaugurating Outrenoir, the body of work which would dominate his practice for the decades to come.  “These paintings were first called ‘Black Light,’ thus designating a light that was inseparable from the black that reflected it,” Soulages has said. “In order not to limit them to an optical phenomenon, I invented the word ‘Outrenoir’ beyond black or—across black—a light transmitted by black.” Soulages received the Grand Prix National de Peinture in 1986, and the following year he was granted a major commission from the French state to design 104 stained-glass windows for the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy. Over eight years, he expanded his engagement with light and architectonics to produce one of the great site-specific projects of the postwar period. In 1992, he received the Praemium Imperiale for Painting from the Japan Art Association.

Soulages has been honored with two additional retrospectives in France, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1996, and at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in 2009. In 2001, he was the first living artist to be given a full-scale survey at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, and in 2014, the Musée Soulages opened in the artist’s hometown of Rodez, housing five hundred paintings spanning Soulages’s career. More than 150 of his paintings are in public collections around the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Lévy Gorvy has had the privilege of working with Pierre Soulages since 2014. That year, at 909 Madison Avenue, Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin opened the first exhibition devoted to the artist in the US in ten years. Dominique Lévy Gallery published two books: Pierre Soulages, a catalogue featuring an interview with the artist and Hans Ulrich Obrist, as well as essays by John Yau and Alain Badiou; and Soulages in America, in which an essay by Harry Cooper and an extensive interview with Philippe Ungar explore the artist’s work in the 1950s and ’60s.

On the occasion of Soulages’s centennial birthday in December 2019, the Musée du Louvre paid homage to the artist—who continues to paint today—with a survey of his seven-decade career, concurrent with an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. Before Soulages, the Louvre has honored only two other artists with an exhibition during their respective lifetimes: Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. To shed greater light on the French artist’s presence in the United States, Lévy Gorvy presented the major survey Pierre Soulages: A Century in New York from September to October 2019. This exhibition was accompanied by a publication, featuring essays by Brooks Adams and Alfred Pacquement as well as poems by Sy Hoahwah and Virginie Poitrasson.

Soulages lives and works in Paris and Sète, France.

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Selected Works

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  • Pierre Soulages's painting Peinture, 130 x 165 cm, 1 septembre 2019 (2019) Enquire
  • Pierre Soulages's painting Peinture, 202 x 143 cm, 8 septembre 2019 (2019) Enquire
  • Pierre Soulages's painting Peinture, 130 x 130 cm, 10 octobre 2019 (2019) Enquire
  • Pierre Soulages, Peinture 55 x 38 cm, décembre 1954, 1954.

    Pierre Soulages.
    Peinture 55 x 38 cm, décembre 1954,
    1954.
    Oil on canvas,
    21 x 15 inches (55 x 38 cm).
    © 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
    Photo: Stephen White.

    Enquire
  • Image of Pierre Soulages' painting Peinture 102 x 165 cm, 18 novembre 2016

    Pierre Soulages.
    Peinture, 202 x 125 cm, 6 janvier 2017,
    2017.
    Acrylic on canvas,
    79 1/2 x 49 1/4 inches (202 x 125 cm).
    © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
    Photo: Tom Powel Imaging.

    Enquire
  • Image of Pierre Soulages' painting Peinture 102 x 165 cm, 18 novembre 2016

    Pierre Soulages.
    Peinture 102 x 165 cm, 18 novembre 2016,
    2016.
    Acrylic on canvas,
    40 3/16 x 65 inches (102 x 165 cm).
    © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
    Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.

    Enquire

Video

unhandled video player, video source:
https://youtu.be/V-BqFI5VNKI

An Interview with Pierre Soulages, 2019

November 19, 2019

Pierre Soulages is interviewed by Elizabeth Quin for the TV program "28 minutes" on Arte, ahead of his 2019 solo exhibition at the Louvre, and following his recent exhibition at Lévy Gorvy.

Exhibitions

Museum Exhibitions

Musée du Louvre

Soulages at the Louvre

December 11, 2019 - March 9, 2020

Musée Fenaille-Rodez

Pierre Soulages: Un Musée Imaginaire

June 14 - November 10, 2019

Ludwig Museum

Noir / Lumière

November 4, 2018 - January 1, 2019

L'arc, Pavilion de l'Industrie

Le Creusot

September 29 - December 21, 2018

Fondation Pierre Gianadda

SOULAGES – Une rétrospective

June 15 - November 25, 2018

Musée Soulages

Gutai, le temps et l’espace

July 7 - November 4, 2018

Galerie Karsten Greve

Peinture

June 28 - August 25, 2018

Museum Art.Plus

Leidenschaft . Passion - Im Fokus: Pierre Soulages

February 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018

Musée Soulages

Les Soulages du Centre Pompidou

June 7, 2017 - January 7, 2018

Galerie Perrotin

Pierre Soulages à la Galerie Perrotin Tokyo

June 7 - August 19, 2017

ArtLab EPFL

Noir c'est noir? Les Outrenoirs de Pierre Soulages

November 5, 2016 - April 23, 2017

Galerie Pascal Lansberg

Soulages

October 21 - November 30, 2016

Galerie Karsten Greve

Peintures 2013 – 2015

October 16, 2015 - January 2, 2016

Musée Picasso

Soulages. Papiers

April 2 - June 26, 2016

Museum Folkwang

Pierre Soulages. Le Noir.

January 15 - October 30, 2016

Musée Soulages

Outrenoir en Europe : musées et fondations

May 31 - October 19, 2014

Dominique Lévy Gallery & Galerie Perrotin

Pierre Soulages New Paintings

April 24 - June 24, 2014

Galerie Boisserée

Pierre Soulages – Arbeiten auf Papier und aus dem graphischen Œuvre

February 21 - April 26, 2014

Villa Medicis – Académie de France à Rome

Soulages XXI secolo

March 2 - June 16, 2013

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

Soulages XXIe siècle

October 12, 2012 - January 28, 2013

Galerie Alice Pauli

Peintures 2010 – 2012

April 26 - July 27, 2012

Publications

Selected Press

Paris Capitale | Pierre Soulages au Louvre

February 15, 2020

Pour les 100 ans de Pierre Soulages, cet hommage dans le plus grand musée du monde symbolise la dimension …

The Conversation | Pierre Soulages, ou l'art d'explorer la lumière dans l’espace

December 20, 2019

Le 11 décembre 2019 s’ouvrait au Louvre une grande rétrospective consacrée au peintre dont on s’apprête …

La Dépêche du Midi | Pourquoi vous ne verrez pas ce tableau au Louvre

December 8, 2019

Ce tableau, vous ne le verrez pas à l’exposition que le Louvre offre à Pierre Soulages pour son anniversaire …

Apollo Magazine | Soulages at the Louvre

December 7, 2019

To celebrate the 100th birthday of the master of "outrenoir," this survey includes abstract works created …

Artforum | Pierre Soulages at Lévy Gorvy New York

December 3, 2019

In an homage to Pierre Soulages’s indomitable spirit, this mini survey at Lévy Gorvy featured twenty …

The New York Times | Black Is Still the Only Color for Pierre Soulages

November 29, 2019

An exhibition at the Louvre will celebrate the French painter’s 100th birthday. The only other artists …

Le Monde | Pierre Soulages: "Dans ma centième année, j’ai toujours du plaisir à peindre"

November 24, 2019

In a recent interview, Pierre Soulages evokes the emotions of his childhood, the role of chance in creation, …

Hyperallergic | Pierre Soulages, Extreme Painter at 100

October 22, 2019

Pierre Soulages is a century old. In anticipation of his retrospective to be held at the Salon Carré …

France TV Info | Exposition : New-York célèbre aussi le centenaire de Pierre Soulages

October 10, 2019

Pierre Soulages sur Madison Avenue. La galerie Lévy Gorvy s'associe aux célébrations aurtour du centième …

France 3 | Pierre Soulages, de l’outrenoir au prix du rayonnement français

October 10, 2019

A près de 100 ans, Pierre Soulages, peintre de l’outrenoir, a reçu le grand prix du rayonnement français …

New York Times | New York Galleries: What to See Right Now

October 10, 2019

Pierre Soulages’s astonishing black monochromes; Alma Thomas’s vibrant abstractions; Elaine Cameron-Weir’s …

Gallery Travels | Pierre Soulages at Lévy Gorvy

October 4, 2019

'Pierre Soulages: A Century' Lévy Gorvy

Artribune | Quasi cent’anni con Pierre Soulages. A New York

October 1, 2019

Sono pochi gli artisti che possono dire di aver avuto l’onore di assistere alla propria retrospettiva …

Thailand Tatler | 'Painter Of Black' Exhibition Opens In New York

September 19, 2019

An exhibition of French artist Pierre Soulages opened in New York on Thursday just months before his …

Blake Qube | PIERRE SOULAGE – A CENTURY“ AT LEVY GORVY GALLERY

September 19, 2019

Lévy Gorvy Gallery New York celebrates the 100th birthday of Pierre Soulage with a dedicated show of …

Le Figaro.fr | Avant le Louvre, Pierre Soulages célébré à New York pour ses 100 ans

September 19, 2019

Quelques mois avant l’exposition que va lui consacrer, pour son centenaire en décembre, le musée …

Art Daily | Lévy Gorvy exhibits new and historic works by French master in his centenary year

September 9, 2019

EW YORK, NY.- Lévy Gorvy is presenting Pierre Soulages: A Century, an exhibition celebrating the 100th …

Art Forum | PLAYFUL SLASH EROTIC

September 9, 2019

IT BEGINS IN UTTER BLACKNESS. A Pierre Soulages kind of blackness, that is, uptown at Lévy Gorvy, where …

Christie's | Pierre Soulages: Beyond black

September 6, 2019

As he prepares to celebrate his 100th birthday, France’s most successful living artist has some wisdom …

Asia Tatler | 'Painter Of Black' Exhibition Opens In New York

September 6, 2019

Twenty pieces of art, mostly recent works but also several masterpieces from Soulages's eight-decade …

State of the Arts NYC | Centennial Celebration of Pierre Soulages

September 6, 2019

Lévy Gorvy is pleased to announce Pierre Soulages: A Century, an exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday …

La Croix | Avant le Louvre, Soulages célébré à New York, terre d'adoption

September 6, 2019

Quelques mois avant l'exposition que va lui consacrer, pour son centenaire, le Louvre, la galerie …

Le Petit Journal | Grande exposition Pierre Soulages à la galerie Levy Gorvy à New York

September 6, 2019

En décembre 2019, le Musée du Louvre rendra hommage à Pierre Soulages, le peintre du noir et de la …

Le Figaro.fr | Avant le Louvre, Pierre Soulages célébré à New York pour ses 100 ans

September 6, 2019

Pierre Soulages a deux amours... Quelques mois avant l’exposition que va lui consacrer le Louvre, la …

Yahoo | 'Painter of black' exhibition opens in New York

September 6, 2019

An exhibition of French artist Pierre Soulages opened in New York on Thursday just months before his …

Artnet | Pierre Soulages Will Become the Latest Living Artist to Show at the Louvre This December—Just in Time for His 100th Birthday

September 6, 2019

his December, French painter Pierre Soulages will celebrate his 100th birthday. He will also be the subject …

France24 | Ambition Still Burns in Art Star Soulages at 99

February 4, 2019

He has been called "the world's greatest living artist" -- and he is still painting at 99. He has been …

France24 | France's Louvre planning Pierre Soulages retrospective next year

December 24, 2018

France's master of black Pierre Soulages announced Monday that he will be the subject of a vast retrospective …

Artnet | Price Check! Here’s What Sold—and for How Much—at Art Basel Miami Beach

December 11, 2017

There’s a reason why Art Basel in Miami Beach has been dubbed the art world’s Black Friday. Judging …

THE ART NEWSPAPER | OFAs (old French artists) are the new YBAs

May 3, 2016

When Emmanuel Perrotin and Dominique Lévy organised a joint exhibition of old and new work by Soulages …

Christies | Pierre Soulages: Beyond Black

May 28, 2015

If art aficionados ever wonder how the work of great Abstract Expressionists whose careers were cut short …

Le Figaro | Découvrez les promus de la Légion d'honneur de Pâques

April 5, 2015

C'est une des traditions de Pâques de la République. Le Journal officiel a révélé ce dimanche le …

Le Figaro | Soulages, l'éternité et un jour

March 17, 2015

DANS L'ATELIER DE...Visite, un matin ;hiver, dans son refuge parisien où le peintre des «Outrenoirs» …

Nowness | Pierre Soulages: Outrenoir

January 20, 2015

“I don’t work with black,” says Pierre Soulages, who, for over 60 years, has injected poetry into …

France Magazine | Soulages is the New Black

June 28, 2014

Few artists have the privilege of seeing a major museum built in their honor during their lifetime. Pierre …

Haber's Art Reviews | The Red and the Black

June 27, 2014

What lies beyond black? How about more black—and the blacker the better? Pierre Soulages does not have …

BBC News | The president and the 'greatest living artist' in the world

June 23, 2014

Things have going badly for French President Francois Hollande. Defeat in the European elections, a weak …

Art in America | All Black Everything: Soulages Museum Opens in South of France

June 19, 2014

The French are no strangers to strikes. So few took notice, on the morning of May 30, when a group of …

Artnews | 10 Famous Black Paintings

June 18, 2014

In the name of balance and harmony it’s only right to do a list of ten famous black paintings today! …

Aesthetica | Pierre Soulages, Dominique Lévy Gallery and Galerie Perrotin, New York

June 14, 2014

The art of Pierre Soulages, currently on display at Dominique Lévy Gallery and Galerie Perrotin, exists …

Francofile Central | Pierre Soulages: Paint it Black

June 12, 2014

On May 31st, French President François Hollande inaugurated the brand new Musée Soulages in Rodez, …

Art Observed | New York - Pierre Soulages at Galerie Perrotin and Dominique Lévy Through June 27th, 2014

June 4, 2014

Held in high regard in his home country of France, and throughout much of continental Europe, the work …

France 24 | A Museum for the Master of Black

June 2, 2014

Pierre Soulages, arguably France’s most famous living artist, is known as a master of the colour black. …

Irish Times | Steel-cube Soulages museum honours France’s ‘outrenoir’ painting master

May 31, 2014

Some 300 protesting farmers, steel workers and temporary entertainers confronted riot police in the small …

Les Echos | Pierre Soulages, pas si noir

May 30, 2014

L’histoire commence dans une rue aux façades sévères. Une rue que Kafka aurait pu imaginer.

Le Monde | Un musée pour Soulages, chercheur de lumière

May 29, 2014

Parlant du musée qui ouvre ses portes à Rodez le 31 mai et qui porte son nom, Pierre Soulages a souvent …

Art in America | Pierre Soulages

May 23, 2014

In France, Pierre Soulages enjoys a reputation comparable to Rothko’s or de Kooning’s in the U.S. …

Quintessence | Pierre Soulages Returns to New York

May 22, 2014

According to art critic Brooks Adams, who spoke several weeks ago at the preview of the Pierre Soulages …

The New York Times | Pierre Soulages: Master of Black, Still Going Strong

May 20, 2014

PARIS — Pierre Soulages, 94, still paints every day on the floor of his atelier in the Latin Quarter …

Day of the Artist | Day 134 - Pierre Soulages - The Painter of Black

May 14, 2014

It’s Day 124 and it is just as hot yesterday if not hotter! I hosed down the dogs which they hated, …

Daphne Nash | Dominique Lévy + Galerie Perrotin | Pierre Soulages

May 14, 2014

What is there to see in a canvas of black paint? More than you might initially think if the current Pierre …

TimeOut New York | Pierre Soulages

May 12, 2014

The name Pierre Soulages may not be familiar to current art aficionados, but a half century ago, the …

Exhibition Reviews | Pierre Soulages

May 2, 2014

From April 24 to June 27, 2014, Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin are jointly presenting “Pierre …

Vanity Fair FR | Back to Black

April 30, 2014

On pourrait croire il a plus rien a prouver. Pierre Soulages, apprete a inaugurer, fin mai, son propre …

British Airways High Life | Meet France's greatest living artist

April 30, 2014

I still find myself working in a trance on a painting, in a fit, doing nothing else, in the middle of …

Purple FR | Pierre Soulages at Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin, New York

April 29, 2014

Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin jointly present Pierre Soulages, the first American exhibition of …

French Morning | Pierre Soulages voit noir sur Madison Avenue

April 28, 2014

Depuis Rodez où il s’occupe de la mise en place de son musée qui ouvrira fin mai, il communique par …

Artnet | Top 10 Most Expensive Living French Artists

April 25, 2014

artnet News’s ongoing series on the world’s most expensive living artists by nationality turns next …

Paper Mag | 10 Must-See Art Shows Opening This Week

April 24, 2014

Galerie Perrotin and Dominique Levy Gallery (909 Madison Avenue) are opening the first New York exhibition …

Art Market Monitor | Re-Acquainting America with Pierre Soulages

April 24, 2014

Emmanuel Perrotin and Dominique Lévy are doing everything they can to remind the art world that Pierre …

Masde Arte | Soulages, áun negro y luminoso

April 24, 2014

Las salas Dominique Lévy y Perrotin de Nueva York presentan conjuntamente desde hoy la primera muestra …

Gallerist | 12 Things to Do in New York’s Art World Before April 28

April 21, 2014

THURSDAY | Pierre Soulages at Dominique Lévy A joint exhibition of the 94-year-old artist, a national …

ArtFCity | This Week’s Must-See Art Events: Stereotypical Zinesters

April 21, 2014

Is art getting too boring? We’ve found some exceptions this week, as always, but fuck: MoMA’s showing …

Harper's Bazaar | The LIST Gallerina Guide

April 17, 2014

As a proud Franco-American, French culture has always been a big part of my life so I’m very much looking …

tsugi | Gesaffelstein & Pierre Soulages: noirs désirs

April 8, 2014

Il en rêvait, Tsugi l’a fait. Lorsque l’on préparait en septembre dernier le numéro du magazine …

Paris Match | Soulages En Pleine Lumiere

April 7, 2014

Le plus célèbre peintre français a pour la première fois accepté qu’on lui consacre un musée. …

Museum Soulages | Official opening of the Soulages Museum

April 3, 2014

The museum of the « Outrenoir » master (« ultra-black »), Pierre Soulages, will be opening its doors …

A Mag | Pierre Soulages

April 1, 2014

Still painting and sculpting at age 94, artist Pierre Soulages is the subject of a full career retrospective …

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