Tuesday 22 November 2011

Pierre Soulages

Ok, I’m blowing a ‘half-time’ whistle on the Nabis series (a couple more to come, including a big piece on Félix Vallotton). A little breather to look at one or two other artists, starting with French artist Pierre Soulages.

Soulage is known as "the painter of black" because of his interest in the colour, "...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". He sees light as a matter to work with; 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 colour.

Pierre Soulages was born in Rodez, Aveyron in the South of France in 1919. At the age of eighteen he travelled to Paris, where he visited museums and was fascinated by the artists Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne. In 1941 he was drafted into the army; his regiment was located in Montpellier, where he attended the École des Beaux-Arts. There he also became acquainted with the abstract artist Sonia Delaunay. As of 1946 he maintained a studio in Courbevoie near Paris and established contact with artists such as Domela, Picabia, Hartung and Léger. In the following year his pictures were exhibited publicly for the first time in the Salon des Surindépendants and thus made accessible to a wider public. Already living in Paris he designed several stage sets between 1949 and 1952.

Along with trips to Mexico and the USA, his visit to Japan in 1958 took on special significance. Early impressions of his country's austere Romanesque architecture and Celtic monuments as well as the later influence of East Asian calligraphy dominated his gestural, yet compositional well-balanced paintings with their black and brown beam fonts on light coloured bases. In his later works Pierre Soulages used flat rubber spatulas or roll brushes as painting utensils, which influenced the aesthetic effect of his bulky works. As an important representative of the Ecole de Paris and informel art, Soulages was repeatedly represented at the "documenta" in the 50s and 60s; his first great retrospective took place in Hanover, Essen and The Haag as early as 1960-61.

In the following years he received numerous international art awards, including the Rembrandt Award in Germany in 1976 and the Great National Award for Painting in Paris in 1987. In 1994 he was honoured in Japan with the Praemium Imperiale for painting. The execution of the 104 stained-glass windows for Conques abbey, the designs for which he had already begun in 1987, was completed in 1994.

Pierre Soulages lives and works in Sète and Paris. He is the first living artist invited to exhibit at the state Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg and later with the Tretyakov Gallery of Moscow (2001). A composition he created in 1959 sold for 1.200.000 euros at Sotheby's in 2006. In 2007, the Musée Fabre of Montpellier devoted an entire room to Soulages, presenting his donation to the city. This donation includes twenty paintings dating from 1951 to 2006, among which are major works from the 1960s, two large plus-black works from the 1970s, and several large polyptychs. A retrospective of his art was held at the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou from October 2009 to March 2010.

1952 Etching No.2

1956 Untitled intaglio

1957 Eau forte XII aquatint

1957 Lithographie No. 5

1958 Peinture 21 Juillet 1958 
oil on canvas

1959 [lithogaph]

1962 3 Mai 1962

1963 Peinture 23 Avril 1963 
oil on canvas

1969 Lithographie No. 22

1969 Peinture 23 Mai 1969 
oil on canvas

1974 Composition rouille et noire XXV 

1974 Peinture 8 Août 1974 
oil on canvas

1982 Peinture 19 Mai 1982 
oil on canvas

1987 Peinture 11 Juillet 1987 
acrylic on canvas

1991 Untitled [relief print]

1998 B-Walnut Stain 
acrylic and charcoal on canvas

2004 A-Walnut Stain 
acrylic on canvas

2004 B-Walnut Stain 
walnut stain on paper

2004 Gouache 2004 B-7

2008 Peinture (diptyque) 12 November 2008 

2008 Peinture 12 Novembre 2008

2008 Peinture 24 Février 2008

2010 Peinture (diptych) 17 Février 2010

2010 Peinture (triptych) 18 Mars 2010 

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