Pierre Soulages (1919-2022)

On Tuesday 25 October, internationally acclaimed French painter Pierre Soulages died at the age of 102. A creator of complex textures, Soulages chose black as his working colour and the spatula as his painting tool.
Pierre Soulages, 'Peinture 89 x 130 cm, 23 janvier 1954', 1954. Inv. PE115

Pierre Soulages was born in 1919, in Rodez, France. In his hometown, a museum dedicated to his work opened in 2014, exhibiting the 500 works donated by the artist and his wife.

Part of the School of Paris from early on, together with Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Pierre Soulages is also considered the father of French Informalism. His exploration of pictorial space, multiplication, repetition and gestural forms gathered pace during the 1950s, after he decided to devote himself exclusively to painting in the post-World War II period, when he moved to Paris.

Known as the painter of black, all the work centred around this colour actually relates to luminosity and is focused entirely on light, reinventing it and creating an interplay of tensions between lightness and darkness. Later on he was influenced by Chinese calligraphy, particularly with regard to calligraphic abstraction.

The Gulbenkian Modern Art Centre (CAM) collection includes a highly significant painting from the artist’s oeuvre, Peinture 89 x 130 cm, 23 janvier 1954, acquired in 1980 to form part of the Centre’s inauguration in 1983.

He received numerous distinctions throughout his career, including the Grand Prix des Arts of the city of Paris.

Updated on 07 november 2022

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