Pierre Soulages

1919 Rodez, France

Introduction

The painter and sculptor Pierre Soulages is one of France's most important artists, with an impressive career spanning over seven decades. He is known as a master of post-war abstraction, leader of Tachisme (the French counterpart to Action painting in the United States), and "the painter of black," owing to the hue's unique properties as both a colour and a non-colour, and ability to represent the natural, opposing forces of order and disorder. Soulages has said, "My instrument is not black but the light reflected from the black." He sees light as a work material that reflects off of the ridges and textures of the blackness, allowing the black to emerge from its colour-void as a glossy and dynamic "colour" composed of organised light.

Pierre Soulages was born in Rodez, France in 1919 and began to paint while a teenager. At the age of eighteen he travelled to Paris to familiarize himself with the art scene and found inspiration in Picasso and Cezanne. During the years of World War II he frequented the École des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, although not formally enrolled as a student. In 1946 he moved to Courbevoie, outside Paris, where he set up a studio and began producing abstract works characterised by heavy black brush strokes. From the beginning, he entitled his works simply Peinture, together with the dimensions and the exact dating of the respective work. He befriended other artists—including Hans Hartung, Francis Picabia, and Fernand Léger—and had his first exhibition at the Salon des Surindépendants in 1947. Just one year later, the work of the young artist was discovered in Germany. Participation in the 1948 seminal group exhibition Französische abstrakte Malerei was Soulages’ first exhibition abroad, travelling to seven cities throughout Germany. In the same year, James Johnson Sweeney, former curator of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and later director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, became aware of the artist. The international recognition accorded to Soulages during this creative period is further reflected in his three appearances at Documenta: I (1955), II (1959) and III (1964).

Since 1979, the artist has been concerned exclusively with a series of mainly monochrome paintings he as defined as Outrenoirs (translated "beyond black"), known for their effect of bottomless depth created by the interplay of texture and light. Soulages applies various layers of paint, then manipulates the tarry surface into furrows and planes through the use of self-made tools, including brushes, rollers and spatulas, and objects such as spoons and bits of rubber. In recent years he has shifted his focus on the interplay between regions of glossy and matte, exploring the densities and hardness of pigments within the spectrum of black. 

A highlight of Soulages' extensive exhibition history was the retrospective held by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2009 held in honour of the artist’s 90th birthday. Today, his works are featured in the collections of more than 300 international museums, including the MoMA in New York, the Tate in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 2014, the Musée Soulages opened in his hometown of Rodez. The artist currently lives and works in Paris and Sète, France.



BIOGRAPHY

1919 Born in Rodez, France

1937 Travelled to Paris at the age of eighteen

1939-45 Frequented the École des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier, France during World War II

1946 Moved to Paris, France

1950s One of the leaders of Tachisme art movement (the French counterpart to Action painting in the United States) including Hans Hartung and Zao Wou-ki

2014 Musée Soulages opened in Rodez, France

Currently Lives and works in Paris and Sète, France



SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2019            

  • Pierre Soulages: Beyond Black·Centenary Exhibition, Le French May Arts Festival Associated Project, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong

2018          

  • Pierre Soulages, L'ARC, Le Creusot 
  • Soulages: A Retrospective, Fondation Pierre Gianadda (in collaboration with Centre Pompidou Paris), Martigny 
  • Noir/Lumière, Ludwig Museum Koblenz, Koblenz 

2017          

  • Les Soulages du Centre Pompidou, Musée Soulages, Rodez
  • Leidenschaft. Passion. – Im Fokus: Pierre Soulages, Museum Art.Plus, Donaueschingen 

2016          

  • Noir c’est noir? Les Outrenoirs de Pierre Soulages, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne
  • Soulages. Papiers, Musée Picasso, Antibes 
  • Pierre Soulages: Le noir, Museum Folkwang, Essen 

2014          

  • Pierre Soulages: Les Outrenoir(s), Musée Soulages, Rodez 

2013          

  • Soulages XXIe Siècle, Villa Médicis, Rome

2012          

  • Soulages XXIe siècle, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon 

2011          

  • Les Sujets de l’abstraction, Musée Fabre, Montpellier 
  • Les Sujets de l’abstraction, 1946-1962 – Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Musée Rath, Geneve 

2010          

  • Pierre Soulages, Museo de La Ciudad de México, Mexico City 
  • Soulages, Verre, Cartons des Vitraux de Conques, Musée Fabre, Montpellier 

2009          

  • Soulages au Salon Carré du Louvre, Musée du Louvre, Paris 
  • Soulages. Le Temps Du Papier, Musée D’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg 
  • Paris Soulages, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 

2007          

  • Prix Julio González, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia 

2006            

  • Pierre Soulages, Painting The Light, Sammlung Essl, Vienna 
  • Estampes de Pierre Soulages, Salle D’Exposition Carmel, Tarbes 

2005          

  • Pierre Soulages, Musée Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen 
  • Pierre Soulages: American Selections, Trumbull Museum, Howland 

2003          

  • Soulages. L'Œuvre Imprimé, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris 

2002          

  • Pierre Soulages: Eaux-Fortes et Bronzes, Musée Rignault, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie 

2001          

  • Pierre Soulages: Lumière Du Noir, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

2000          

  • Soulages: 82 Peintures, Les Abattoirs, Toulouse 

1999          

  • Soulages, Œuvres Récentes, 1994-99, Musée Fabre, Montpellier 
  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Kunstmuseum, Berne 

1998          

  • Pierre Soulages, Centro Cultural, Logrono 

1997          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Centro de Exposiciones y Congresos, Saragosse 

1996          

  • Pierre Soulages, Centre D’Art Contemporain, Embrun 
  • Pierre Soulages: Noir-Lumière, Musée D’Art Moderne, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal; Museu de Arte, São Paulo 

1995          

  • Soulages, Fondation Veranneman, Kruishoutem

1993          

  • Pierre Soulages: une rétrospective, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; also seen in: Fine Arts Museum, Beijing; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei 

1992          

  • Pierre Soulages: Polyptyques 1979-1991, Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc 

1991          

  • Pierre Soulages, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna 

1989          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes 
  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia 
  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel 

1987          

  • Pierre Soulages, Musée Saint Pierre Art Contemporain, Lyon 

1986          

  • Peintures 1984-1986, FIAC, Galerie de France, Paris 

1984          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo 

1983          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée D'Unterlinden, Colmar 

1979          

  • Soulages, Peintures Récentes, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 

1977          

  • Pierre Soulages: Bronzes et Peintures Sur Papier, FIAC; Galerie de France, Paris 

1976          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée D’Art et D’Industrie, Saint-Etienne; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Museu da Universidad; Fundaçào Cultural, São Paulo; Museo, Maracaïbo; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas 

1975          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Museu de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; Musée Fabre, Montpellier; Salas del Patrimonio Artistico y Cultural, Madrid; Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbonne

1974          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée Dynamique, Dakar 

1973          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée D’Art et D’Histoire, Neuchâtel 
  • Pierre Soulages: Peintures 1964-1972, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi; Rädhus Gentofte, Copenhagen; Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg; Henie Onstad Art Center, Hovikodden 

1968          

  • Soulages, Musée D’Art Contemporain, Montréal; Musée Du Québec, Québec Pierre 

1967            

  • Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée National D’Art Moderne, Paris 

1966          

  • Pierre Soulages, Museum Of Fine Arts, Houston 

1962          

  • Pierre Soulages: Retrospective, Massachussets Institute of Technology, Boston 

1960          

  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover; Folkwang Museum, Essen; Gemeente Museum, The Hague; Kunsthaus, Zurich 

1949          

  • Pierre Soulages, Galerie Lydia Conti, Paris

 

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

1988          

  • Rendezvous: Masterpieces from the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Museum, New York 

1977          

  • Paris-New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 

1953          

  • Younger European Painters, Guggenheim Museum, New York 

1948          

  • Französische abstrakte Malerei, Württembergisher Kustverein, Stuttgart 

1947          

  • Salon des Surindépendants, Paris

 

SELECTED AWARDS
2015   La Légion d’honneur, Paris 

2006   Prix Julio González, Valencia Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Vienna 

1992   Praemium Imperiale Prize for Painting, Japan Art Association, Tokyo 

1986   Grand Prix National for Painting, Paris 

1979   Foreign Honorary Member for Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York 

1976   Rembrandt Award, Amsterdam 

1975   Grand Prix for Painting, Paris


SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Guggenheim Museum, New York, United States

Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States

National Gallery of Art, Washington, United States

Fogg Art Gallery, Harvard University, Boston, United States

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, United States

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, United States

Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, United States

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, United States

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada

Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil