Pierre Soulages

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Pierre Soulages, 2019

Pierre Soulages (born December 24, 1919 in Rodez , Aveyron department ) is a French painter and printmaker .

Alongside Hans Hartung, he is the main representative of the abstract, non-representational direction of contemporary French painting. Broad, black bar shapes on a light background are typical of his compositions.


The son of a coach builder lost his father at the age of five. During the Second World War he evaded recruitment for forced labor in Germany with forged papers as a wine grower near Montpellier . After the war, he moved to Paris in 1946 and now dealt exclusively with painting. Soon he was seen as a European counterweight to the American “abstract expressionists”, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock , from whose “ Action Painting ” his own black and white imagery differed significantly. In 1948 he was discovered by the artists Hans Hartung and Francis Picabia in Paris. Its black, calligraphic shapes quickly became its trademark. From 1949 to 1952 he worked as a set designer for the Théâtre de l'Athénée in Paris. Since 1979 his pictures have been monochrome black. Soulages was a participant in documenta 1 (1955), documenta II (1959) and also documenta III in 1964 in Kassel . In 1992 he received the “ Praemium Imperiale ”, a kind of Nobel Prize for Art. Soulages lives with his wife Colette in Paris and also in Sète in the south of France . In February 2014 it was announced that he was donating a collection of 500 works to his hometown of Rodez.

Soulages Museum

On May 30, 2014, a museum was opened in Rodez . In the first four weeks after opening, more than 45,000 visitors came to the museum (a total of 250,000 in the first year), which also shows changing exhibitions by contemporary artists on part of its area.


Pierre Soulages' art is characterized by the striving not to want to depict something , but to create autonomous works that do not represent anything , but only stand for themselves. Based on characters that he finds less in the calligraphy of the Far East than in the mythological characters on monuments of his Celtic homeland, he strives for non- figurative design and develops a highly intuitive painting, the deeper meaning of which is largely determined by the act of viewing opens up.

Soulage's artistic work is not to be understood as an illustration of the artist's emotional states in random, gestural splashes of paint . Rather, he carefully builds complex compositions that clearly distinguish his works from the works of other non-representational artists, especially the North American art scene.

His sometimes unusual tools include coarse brushes, brooms and wooden sticks as well as the so-called lames, pieces of rubber that are clamped between two wooden discs, which can be used to design the surface in a variety of ways. With these means he prefers to work on the color black and creates grooves and furrows that make the colors beneath the black paint layer shine all the more intensely.

From this, Soulages develops his outrenoir images, ie images “beyond black” (French: outre-noir ). In them he no longer works directly with the applied paint, but uses the paint to design and modulate the reflections of the light when it hits the processed black surface. The natural light is not shown, but is included as an elementary part of the work. The changing lighting conditions and observer positions contribute to the fact that Soulage's works can never be “seen to the end”, but always remain alive and inexhaustible.

Soulages also designed the windows of the Sainte-Foy monastery church in Conques .


Literature & Film

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pierre Soulages Museum.
  2. Black again and again. In: FAZ of July 10, 2014, page R4.
  3. ^ Andrea Rygg Karberg: Painting the light. In: Pierres Soulages. Painting the Light. Catalog on the occasion of the exhibition in the Essl Museum , Klosterneuburg, Vienna 2006.
  4. L'Aurillacois Stéphane Berthomieux signe un documentaire qui éclaire l'œuvre de Soulages. In: La Montagne of October 21, 2017.