Death of the French painter Pierre Soulages at the age of 102

Steph Deschamps / October 27, 2022

The master of black joins the darkness. Pierre Soulages died at the age of 102, announced Alfred Pacquement, his longtime friend and president of the Soulages museum, inaugurated in May 2014, in Rodez. A place dear to the artist's heart, since it was in this town in Aveyron that the painter was born on December 24, 1919.
 
More than a hundred years later, the artist has undoubtedly marked the history of art, leaving behind him a rich and complex work, carried by his work on black. A "color" from which he brings out the light, which becomes from the end of the 1970s his obsession, tipping over nearly ten years later, in 1979, in what he will call "outrenoir ».
 
I like the authority of black, its gravity, its obviousness, its radicality (...) Black has unsuspected possibilities," explained in December 2019 the artist, one of the few to have had the honors of the Louvre in his lifetime. "It is a very active color. You put black next to a dark color and it lights up," he confided in an interview with AFP.
 
An artist greeted by the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron, for whom "Pierre Soulages had known how to reinvent the black, by making it gush with light", seeing in his works "vivid metaphors where each of us draws hope ».
 
Pierre Soulages, who had discovered his vocation as a child during a school visit to the Abbey of Sainte-Foy de Conques, went to Paris in 1937 to train there. Admitted to the Beaux Arts, he did not find himself in the training of this institution, skipped the courses and decided to return to his native South to train in Montpellier.
 
It was not until 1947 that the young painter moved back to Paris with his wife Colette, who had married in 1942, with false papers to escape the STO (Service du travail obligatoire), which forced young Frenchmen to work for Germany. He was then noticed by Francis Picabia and Fernand Léger who encouraged him. At the time, he painted in ochre and black, but also in red and brown. 
 
In the 1950s, his paintings were shown in the most prestigious museums in the world, such as the Guggenheim in New York and the Tate Gallery in London. He met the main representatives of the New York School, including Mark Rothko, who became his friend.
 
In France, it was the Georges Pompidou Center that devoted his first personal exhibition to him in 1967. Nearly 50 years later, in May 2014, the Soulages museum, entirely dedicated to his work, opened its doors in Rodez, his hometown, in the presence of the artist then aged 94. 
 
Author of thousands of paintings, he was one of the most highly rated living French artists. In November 2021, one of his works, painted in red and black, was estimated at 20.2 million dollars at an auction. A record for the artist, who was still painting at the age of 99. 
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