Peinture 81 x 81 cm, 17 février 2016

Pierre Soulages

Soulages’ fascination with black, the tone with which he had come almost exclusively to mark his canvases, became a practical obsession in 1979 with the creation of his first outrenoir (beyond black) paintings. With outrenoir, black became the starting point of a painting, the canvas itself, upon which he would perform dynamic actions with the brush or palette-knife. In this way, through scoring and scraping, creating ridges, lines and fields of black, Soulages explored the property of black itself and in particular its capacity to hold or reflect light, depending on a simple action performed upon the layer of paint.

Paintings from this phase of his career, which now accounts for more than half of his working life, tend to be large. Many, such as some of the vast works shown at his recent centenary exhibition at the Musee du Louvre in 2019-20, cannot be housed anywhere other than in an institution. Of the so-called domestic-scale works, again, many of his creations are over 2 metres in height or width. It is with some pride, therefore, that we are able to offer a work on canvas by the artist which is on an easily manageable scale yet has a riot of mark-making within its exciting composition.

The gestures repeated within Peinture 81 x 81 cm, 17 février 2016 recall onrushing waves approaching a shoreline, the ridges of the dynamically worked impasto glistening with reflected light. The most successful examples of Soulages' Outrenoir work fuse his practice of radical abstraction with a profound visual poetry by which the viewer momentarily forgets the artist's adherence to the single material of black paint. That this canvas achieves such a definition with authoritative aplomb sets it high amongst the very few existing examples of the artist's later works in this scale.

Pierre Soulages (b.1919)
Peinture 81 x 81 cm, 17 février 2016
Acrylic on canvas
31 7/8 x 31 7/8 in : 81.0 x 81.0 cm
Signed verso and inscribed 'Peinture 81 x 81 cm 17.02.2016'
Acquired directly from the artist by the previous owner
Private Collection, New York City
This work will be included in the forthcoming volume V of "Soulages, L'œuvre Complet, Peintures" currently in preparation
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