Soulages Pierre

1919 Rodez, France-2022 Sete, France


The painter and sculptor Pierre Soulages is one of France's most important artists, with an impressive career spanning over seven decades. He is known as a master of post-war abstraction, leader of Tachisme (the French counterpart to Action painting in the United States), and "the painter of black," owing to the hue's unique properties as both a colour and a non-colour, and ability to represent the natural, opposing forces of order and disorder. Soulages has said, "My instrument is not black but the light reflected from the black." He sees light as a work material that reflects off of the ridges and textures of the blackness, allowing the black to emerge from its colour-void as a glossy and dynamic "colour" composed of organised light.

Pierre Soulages was born in Rodez, France in 1919 and began to paint while a teenager. At the age of eighteen he travelled to Paris to familiarize himself with the art scene and found inspiration in Picasso and Cezanne. During the years of World War II he frequented the École des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, although not formally enrolled as a student. In 1946 he moved to Courbevoie, outside Paris, where he set up a studio and began producing abstract works characterised by heavy black brush strokes. From the beginning, he entitled his works simply Peinture, together with the dimensions and the exact dating of the respective work. He befriended other artists—including Hans Hartung, Francis Picabia, and Fernand Léger—and had his first exhibition at the Salon des Surindépendants in 1947. Just one year later, the work of the young artist was discovered in Germany. Participation in the 1948 seminal group exhibition Französische abstrakte Malerei was Soulages’ first exhibition abroad, travelling to seven cities throughout Germany. In the same year, James Johnson Sweeney, former curator of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and later director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, became aware of the artist. The international recognition accorded to Soulages during this creative period is further reflected in his three appearances at Documenta: I (1955), II (1959) and III (1964).

Since 1979, the artist has been concerned exclusively with a series of mainly monochrome paintings he as defined as Outrenoirs (translated "beyond black"), known for their effect of bottomless depth created by the interplay of texture and light. Soulages applies various layers of paint, then manipulates the tarry surface into furrows and planes through the use of self-made tools, including brushes, rollers and spatulas, and objects such as spoons and bits of rubber. In recent years he has shifted his focus on the interplay between regions of glossy and matte, exploring the densities and hardness of pigments within the spectrum of black. 

A highlight of Soulages' extensive exhibition history was the retrospective held by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2009 held in honour of the artist’s 90th birthday. Alisan Fine Arts organised Soulages' ever first exhibition in Hong Kong in 2019 as part of Le French May Arts Festival. Today, his works are featured in the collections of more than 300 international museums, including the MoMA in New York, the Tate in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 2014, the Musée Soulages opened in his hometown of Rodez. 

Born in Rodez, France
1937    Travelled to Paris at the age of eighteen
1939-45    Frequented the École des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier, France during World War II
1946    Moved to Paris, France
1950s One of the leaders of Tachisme art movement (the French counterpart to Action painting in the United States) including Hans Hartung and Zao Wou-ki
2014    Musée Soulages opened in Rodez, France
2022    Passed away in Sète, France



  • Soulages at the Louvre, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France 



  • Pierre Soulages, L'ARC, Le Creusot, France 
  • Soulages: A Retrospective, Fondation Pierre Gianadda (in collaboration with Centre Pompidou Paris), Martigny, France 
  • Noir/Lumière, Ludwig Museum Koblenz, Koblenz, Germany 


  • Les Soulages du Centre Pompidou, Musée Soulages, Rodez, France
  • Leidenschaft. Passion. – Im Fokus: Pierre Soulages, Museum Art.Plus, Donaueschingen, Germany  


  • Noir c’est noir? Les Outrenoirs de Pierre Soulages, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Soulages. Papiers, Musée Picasso, Antibes, France  
  • Pierre Soulages: Le noir, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany  


  • Pierre Soulages: Les Outrenoir(s), Musée Soulages, Rodez, France 


  • Soulages XXIe Siècle, Villa Médicis, Rome, Italy


  • Soulages XXIe siècle, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, France 


  • Les Sujets de l’abstraction, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France 
  • Les Sujets de l’abstraction, 1946-1962 – Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Musée Rath, Geneve, Switzerland 


  • Pierre Soulages, Museo de La Ciudad de México, Mexico City, Mexico  
  • Soulages, Verre, Cartons des Vitraux de Conques, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France  


  • Soulages au Salon Carré du Louvre, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France  
  • Soulages. Le Temps Du Papier, Musée D’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France  
  • Paris Soulages, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France  


  • Prix Julio González, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia, Spain 


  • Pierre Soulages, Painting The Light, Sammlung Essl, Vienna, Austria 
  • Estampes de Pierre Soulages, Salle D’Exposition Carmel, Tarbes, France  


  • Pierre Soulages, Musée Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, Sweden 
  • Pierre Soulages: American Selections, Trumbull Museum, Howland, United States 


  • Soulages. L'Œuvre Imprimé, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France 


  • Pierre Soulages: Eaux-Fortes et Bronzes, Musée Rignault, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, France 


  • Pierre Soulages: Lumière Du Noir, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia


  • Soulages: 82 Peintures, Les Abattoirs, Toulouse, France 


  • Soulages, Œuvres Récentes, 1994-99, Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France 
  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland  


  • Pierre Soulages, Centro Cultural, Logrono, Spain 


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Centro de Exposiciones y Congresos, Saragosse, Spain 


  • Pierre Soulages, Centre D’Art Contemporain, Embrun, France  
  • Pierre Soulages: Noir-Lumière, Musée D’Art Moderne, Paris, France ; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal, Canada; Museu de Arte, São Paulo, Brazil 


  • Soulages, Fondation Veranneman, Kruishoutem, Belgium 


  • Pierre Soulages: une rétrospective, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea; Fine Arts Museum, Beijing, China; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan 


  • Pierre Soulages: Polyptyques 1979-1991, Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc, France


  • Pierre Soulages, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria 


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France  
  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia, Spain 
  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany


  • Pierre Soulages, Musée Saint Pierre Art Contemporain, Lyon, France 


  • Peintures 1984-1986, FIAC, Galerie de France, Paris, France 


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan 


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée D'Unterlinden, Colmar, France 


  • Soulages: Peintures Récentes, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France 


  • Pierre Soulages: Bronzes et Peintures Sur Papier, FIAC, Galerie de France, Paris, France 


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée D’Art et D’Industrie, Saint-Etienne, France; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Museu da Universidad, São Paulo; Fundaçào Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil; Museo, Maracaïbo; Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela  


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Museu de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico; Musée Fabre, Montpellier, France; Salas del Patrimonio Artistico y Cultural, Madrid, Spain; Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbonne, Portugal


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée Dynamique, Dakar, Senegal  


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée D’Art et D’Histoire, Neuchâtel, Germany  
  • Pierre Soulages: Peintures 1964-1972, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi, France; Rädhus Gentofte, Copenhagen, Sweden; Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg, Denmark; Henie Onstad Art Center, Hovikodden, Norway  


  • Soulages, Musée D’Art Contemporain, Montréal; Musée Du Québec, Québec, Canada


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Musée National D’Art Moderne, Paris, France 


  • Pierre Soulages, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, United States 


  • Pierre Soulages: Retrospective, Massachussets Institute of Technology, Boston, United States 


  • Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover; Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany; Gemeente Museum, The Hague, Netherlands; Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland 


  • Pierre Soulages, Galerie Lydia Conti, Paris, France 



  • The Collection of the Foundation: A Vision for Painting, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France


  • Rendezvous: Masterpieces from the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Museum, New York, United States 


  • Paris-New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France 


  • Younger European Painters, Guggenheim Museum, New York, United States  


  • Französische abstrakte Malerei, Württembergisher Kustverein, Stuttgart, Germany  


  • Salon des Surindépendants, Paris, France


2015    La Légion d’honneur, Paris, France 
2006    Prix Julio González, Valencia Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, Vienna, Austria 
1992    Praemium Imperiale Prize for Painting, Japan Art Association, Tokyo, Japan 
1986    Grand Prix National for Painting, Paris, France 
1979    Foreign Honorary Member for Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, United States 
1976    Rembrandt Award, Amsterdam, Netherlands  
1975    Grand Prix for Painting, Paris, France

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Guggenheim Museum, New York, United States
Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States
National Gallery of Art, Washington, United States
Fogg Art Gallery, Harvard University, Boston, United States
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, United States
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, United States
Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, United States
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, United States
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada
Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil