Death of French painter Pierre Soulages at 102

Pierre Soulages, world star of painting known for his paintings in infinite shades of black, died overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday at the age of 102.

« It’s sad news, I just hung up with his widow, Colette Soulages, » Alfred Pacquement, a longtime friend of the painter and president of the museum that bears his name in Rodez (Aveyron), told AFP.

The death occurred at the Nîmes hospital at 11:30 p.m. from heart failure, Mohamed Kaoud, Soulages butler in Sète for 27 years, told AFP. His widow is « holding on, but may not have quite realized yet », he added.

The couple had just « celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary », specified Mr. Pacquement, one of the art historians and curators who probably worked the most on Soulages’ work, in particular by organizing the tribute which was returned to him at the Louvre in 2019, at the dawn of his 100th birthday. Until then, only Picasso and Chagall had had this privilege during their lifetime.

Death of French painter Pierre Soulages at 102

The Parisian institution paid tribute on Twitter to this “companion to the museum for more than 50 years” while the president of the Pompidou center, Laurent Le Bon, hailed “a giant” who “marked cultural life with his genius. « .

“Pierre Soulages knew how to reinvent black, by bringing light to it. Beyond the black, his works are vivid metaphors from which each of us draws hope,” reacted President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter.

« bring forth the light »

Tributes have also poured in from his native country. “It is an immense sadness, because I am losing a friend (…) until the end he painted, until a few weeks ago, he worked at his home in Sète”, declared to AFP Benoît Decron, director of the Soulages museum in Rodez.

Tall, always dressed in black, Soulages acquired worldwide fame thanks to his large canvases in a thousand shades of black. He said he was trying to “bring out the light”.

For more than 75 years, he tirelessly traced his path, attracting the recognition of cultural institutions and the art market which made him one of the most highly rated French artists during his lifetime.

One of his paintings dating from 1961 was sold for $20.2 million in New York in November 2021.

The painting entitled « Painting 162 x 130 cm, May 2, 1963 » sold on Wednesday for nearly 6 million euros, Sotheby’s announced in the evening.

heights of Sète

Soulages was born on December 24, 1919 in Rodez, in a craftsman environment which fed his imagination in the middle of his father’s body shop and the surrounding hills.

Death of French painter Pierre Soulages at 102

He never cut the link with his native territory, while painting elsewhere.

Fascinated by prehistory from an early age, he worked a lot with walnut stain before continuing with his large black flat areas of oil paint, which he scraped, scratched and modeled almost in the thickness of the paint, bringing out shades of red, blue and unexpected transparencies.

Death of French painter Pierre Soulages at 102

He had fallen into what he called “outrenoir” in 1979, when he was painting on a work entirely covered in thick black, streaked by chance.

« I was beyond the dark, in another mental field, » he said. “The pot I paint with is black. But it is the light, diffused by reflections, that matters”.

Death of French painter Pierre Soulages at 102

In 1959, the painter had a house-studio built on the heights of Sète, facing the Mediterranean. He also had two workshops in Paris.

In 1986, the State had commissioned him for more than 100 stained glass windows for the Sainte-Foy de Conques abbey, which had been inaugurated in 1994.


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