Pierre Soulages

Famous for his series of Outrenoir, or ‘Beyond Black’ paintings, Pierre Soulages was one of the most renowned European abstract artists of the post-war era.

Soulages first became known for his Broux de Noix (Walnut Stains) (1947–59), calligraphic compositions made using a rich, dark pigment brewed from walnut husks. As his career progressed, the colour black took on an increasingly central position in his oeuvre, initially explored in contrast to other hues like blue and ochre.

In April 1979, in his studio in Sète, southern France, he created his first all-black composition, which marked a critical turning point in his career. Initially not content with the work, he saw it differently when he woke up the next morning. ‘I saw that it was no longer black that gave meaning to the painting but the reflection of light on dark surfaces,’ he recalled. ‘Where it was layered the light danced, and where it was flat it lay still. A new space had come into being.’

Coining this new body of work Outrenoir, he began to carefully scrape, sculpt and smear thick layers of black pigment onto his canvases, creating variously textured, glossy, matt and tar-like surfaces. The ‘painter of black’ was also painting with light. This technique would occupy Soulages’ practice until the end of his life in 2022.

Born in Rodez, Southern France in 1919, Soulages grew up captivated by the prehistoric menhirs of his native region, the Celtic artefacts in his local museum and the Romanesque architecture of the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy in Conques. Indeed, it was during a visit to Conques at the age of 12, fascinated by the dance of light and shadow across its barrel vault ceiling, that Soulages made the decision to become a painter. He was also influenced by the ancient cave art of Lascaux and Chauvet, the elemental blacks, reds and ochres of these ancient paintings providing a direct precedent for his Outrenoir series.

In 1938, Soulages enrolled briefly at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris before returning, dissatisfied with its academic programme, to his hometown of Rodez. In 1946, after serving in the French military, he returned to Paris and set up a small studio space in Courbevoie, devoting himself entirely to painting.

Still relatively unknown in France, in the 1950s he began to gain major recognition across the Atlantic, featuring in two major group exhibitions in New York: Younger European Painters at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1953 and The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. He signed to the prestigious Samuel Kootz Gallery, mounting his first solo show in New York there two months later. Though his style was often compared to Abstract Expressionists such as Franz Kline, Soulages’ paintings were markedly different in their technique, his meticulous process varying greatly from their method of gestural action painting.

Soulages’ first retrospective took place at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, in 1960. In 1966, he participated in his first US retrospective curated by James Johnson Sweeney at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and his work was presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The following year, a retrospective dedicated to the artist in France was held at the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou, Paris: the same institution where, in 1979, he had presented his Outrenoir paintings to the public for the first time.

In 1987, Soulages was honoured with a commission from the French state to create 104 stained-glass windows for the Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy. In 2014, the Musée Soulages opened in Rodez, housing 500 paintings spanning his practice. To commemorate Soulages’ centennial birthday in December 2019, the Musée du Louvre held a survey of the artist’s seven-decade long career, with a concurrent exhibition at the Centre Pompidou.


Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 186 x 143 cm, 23 décembre 1959

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 146 x 114 cm, 6 mars 1960

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 162 x 130 cm, 9 juillet 1961

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 195 x 155 cm., 7 février 1957

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 202 x 156 cm, 27 mars 1961

PIERRE SOULAGES (B. 1919)

Peinture 97 x 130 cm, 5 juin 1962

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 162 x 114cm, 29 août 1958

PIERRE SOULAGES (B. 1919)

Peinture 202 x 159 cm, 3 juillet 1965

PIERRE SOULAGES (B. 1919)

Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 février 1957

彼埃·苏拉吉 (1919 年生)

《Peinture 130 x 89 cm, 25 novembre 1950》

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 222 x 222cm, 15 mai 1987

PIERRE SOULAGES (1919-2022)

Peinture 130 x 89 cm, 8 mars 1956

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 97 x 130 cm, 5 juin 1962

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 222 x 222 cm, 25 mars 1990

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 227 x 306 cm, 2 mars 2009

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 130 x 89 cm, 8 septembre 1965

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 130 x 97 cm, 27 ao û t 19 63

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 162 x 114 cm, 17 avril 1972

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 85 x 222 cm, 18 avril 1991

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 162 x 130cm, 16 octobre 1966

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 143 x 202 cm, 4 décembre 1970

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 65 x 50 cm, 1957

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 162 x 130 cm, 26 mai 1963

Pierre Soulages (1919-2022)

Peinture 130 x 290 cm, 21 novembre 1990

Pierre Soulages (Né en 1919)

Peinture 263 x 181 cm, 29 décembre 2007

PIERRE SOULAGES (Né en 1919)

Peinture 64.5 x 91 cm., 12 janvier 1962

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 165 x 130 cm, 19 mars 2006

PIERRE SOULAGES (NE EN 1919)

Peinture 7 novembre 59

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 130 x 162 cm, 20 juin 1957

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 130 x 92 cm, 30 avril 1981

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 60 x 81 cm, 3 novembre 1955

PIERRE SOULAGES (1919-2022)

Peinture 91 x 181 cm, 26 décembre 2014

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 175 x 222 cm, 20 juillet 2020

Pierre Soulages (Né en 1919)

Peinture 81 x 60 cm, 17 juillet 1955

PIERRE SOULAGES (B. 1919)

Peinture 130 x 97cm, 28 octobre 1966

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 237 x 81 cm, 18 février 1990

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture, 73 x 100cm 17 mai 1964

Pierre Soulages (Né en 1919)

Peinture 204 x 227 cm, 12 novembre 2007

PIERRE SOULAGES (1919-2022)

Peinture 138 x 181 cm, 26 novembre 2010

Pierre Soulages (1919-2022)

Peinture 130 x 92 cm, 9 janvier 1989

彼埃·苏拉吉 (1919 年生)

《Peinture 130 x 92 cm, 20 septembre 2003》

PIERRE SOULAGES (NE EN 1919)

Peinture 97 x 130 cm 15 août 1961

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 130 x 162 cm, 3 avril 1955

PIERRE SOULAGES (NÉ EN 1919)

Peinture 181 x 143 cm, 6 novembre 2007

Pierre Soulages (né en 1919)

Peinture 117 x 130 cm, 21 mars 2007

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 146 x 97 cm, 3 Juin 1957

Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture, 128 x 88 cm., 12 février 1960

Pierre Soulages (Né en 1919)

Peinture 222 x 222 cm, 8 juin 2001

Pierre Soulages (Né en 1919)

Peinture 162 x 114 cm, 9 septembre 2004