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Peinture 130 x 97cm, 28 octobre 1966

Peinture 130 x 97cm, 28 octobre 1966
signed ‘soulages’ (lower right); signed, titled and dated ‘SOULAGES peinture "130cm x 97cm" 28.10.66’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
51 1/8 x 86 ¼in. (130 x 97cm.)
Painted on 28th October 1966
Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne.
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Private Collection, Paris.
Applicat-Prazan, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
P. Encrevé, Pierre Soulages, L'oeuvre complet Peintures 1959-1978, vol. II, Paris 1995, no. 590 (illustrated in colour, p. 171).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Pierre Soulages, 1967, p. 32, no. 77.
Lausanne, Hermitage Foundation, Basquiat, Dubuffet. Soulages...une collection privée, 2016, pp. 80 & 197, no. 46 (illustrated in colour, p. 81).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

A gleaming expanse of black illuminated by glimpses of light, Peinture 130 x 97cm 28 octobre 1966 is an elegant work dating from a triumphant moment in Pierre Soulages’ career. Pale windows of white and ochre punctuate a glistening dark field, swept in broad strokes across the upper three quarters of the canvas. The work stems from a period of growing international acclaim for the artist, who by this stage had achieved recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. 1966 saw the opening of his retrospective at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, curated by James Johnson Sweeney, as well as an exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The present painting made its debut the following year at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris. Rejecting allegiance to both European Art Informel and American Abstract Expressionism, Soulages forged a unique practice dedicated to the pursuit of visual and tonal harmony. Working predominantly in black, he sought to empty his surfaces of all external references, focusing the mind solely on abstract questions of balance, tension and resonance. Raised in Rodez in Southern France, he was deeply inspired by the region’s abundance of prehistoric and Romanesque art: its cave paintings, carved stone monoliths, menhirs and churches. With its rhythmic articulation of forms, the present work possesses an almost architectural grandeur, confronting the viewer like an ancient monument.

‘Black … has always remained the base of my palette’, claims Soulages. ‘It is the most intense, most violent absence of colour, which gives an intense and violent presence to colours, even to white: just as a tree makes the sky seem more blue’ (P. Soulages, quoted in J. Johnson Sweeney, Pierre Soulages, Neuchâtel 1972, p. 13). As a child, he recalls spreading black ink upon blank paper in an attempt to depict snow: the white backdrop, he felt, became infinitely more luminous in dialogue with the surrounding dark stain. As his practice developed, he experimented with a variety of tools and media, adding and subtracting layers of paint in a bid to produce ideal contrasts in density and tone. By using the same descriptive format for his titles – painting, dimensions, date – Soulages allows the viewer’s perception to be guided solely by the visual properties of his abstract surfaces. Whilst the present work invites comparison with artists such as Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell – notably the latter’s Elegies to the Spanish Republic – Soulages found little in common with their emotive, physical gesturalism. In many ways, the work owes more to his memories of standing in Sainte-Foy de Conques – a Romanesque abbey near his hometown – where narrow beams of light filtered through the eleventh-century barrel vault to the darkness below. This experience – of abstract tonal harmony beyond the limits of language – would remain with the artist throughout his career. ‘I do not depict, I paint’, he said. ‘I do not represent, I present’ (P. Soulages, quoted in ‘Peindre la peinture’, Pierre Soulages: Outrenoir: Entretiens avec Françoise Jaunin, Lausanne 2014, p. 16).

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