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Peinture 138 x 181 cm, 26 novembre 2010

Peinture 138 x 181 cm, 26 novembre 2010
signed, titled and dated 'SOULAGES "Peinture 138 x 181 cm" 26 novembre 2010' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas, in two parts
overall: 54 5/8 x 71 5/8in. (138.8 x 181.8cm.)
Painted in 2010
Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013.
P. Encrevé, Soulages. L'œuvre complet. Peintures: IV. 1997-2013, Paris 2015, p. 22, no. 1467 (illustrated in colour, p. 398).
Rodez, Musée Soulages, Outrenoir en Europe. Musées et fondations, 2014, p. 90, no. 20 (illustrated in colour, p. 91).
Special notice
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. Please note that at our discretion some lots may be moved immediately after the sale to our storage facility at Momart Logistics Warehouse: Units 9-12, E10 Enterprise Park, Argall Way, Leyton, London E10 7DQ. At King Street lots are available for collection on any weekday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. Collection from Momart is strictly by appointment only. We advise that you inform the sale administrator at least 48 hours in advance of collection so that they can arrange with Momart. However, if you need to contact Momart directly: Tel: +44 (0)20 7426 3000 email: pcandauctionteam@momart.co.uk. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

With its shimmering dark surface underscored by a pristine pale strip, Peinture 138 x 181 cm, 26 novembre 2010 occupies rare territory in Pierre Soulages’ oeuvre. While the relationship between black and white lay at the heart of the artist's enquiries, the present work's clean, bisected structure distinguishes it within his practice, offering a vision of distilled elegance and clarity. Spanning almost two metres in width, the painting captures Soulages’ enduring fascination with black as a source of light. With its flickering vertical striations hovering above a horizontal ribbon of rich impasto, the work reflects his longstanding exploration of the state he termed ‘outrenoir’, or ‘beyond black’. Here, the deep, light-reflecting properties of his dark paint are made all the more brilliant by their sharp-edged encounter with white, the two zones throwing one another into powerful relief. In 2014, the work was included in the inaugural exhibition at the Musée Soulages in Rodez: the first European retrospective dedicated to the outrenoirs. There, it stood as a symbol of the restless creative spirit that continued to drive Soulages into his tenth decade.

Soulages’ death in October 2022—three years after his landmark centenary exhibition at the Musée du Louvre—brought an end to one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable artistic practices. From an early age, he had understood that black was the most fundamental colour: famously, while spreading dark ink upon white paper as a child, he had explained to a family friend that he was attempting to paint ‘snow’. Encounters with the 20,000-year-old cave paintings of Lascaux, and the dark vaulted interior of the eleventh-century abbey near his hometown, strengthened his convictions. Black, he believed, could absorb and contain the light of the world around it, making other colours more visible and potent by association. In 1979, after more than thirty years of exploring this idea in his art, Soulages experienced an epiphany. It was time, he decided, for total darkness to permeate his paintings, saturating every inch of the canvas. He conceived the term ‘outrenoir’ to describe this condition. Just as ‘outre-Manche’ indicated a land ‘across the Channel’, so too did ‘outrenoir’ denote a place ‘beyond’: one where black transcended its ‘blackness’, giving way—simply—to light.

At the time of the present work, Soulages had just celebrated his ninetieth birthday: an occasion marked by a major retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. His outrenoirs, by this stage, had reached new levels of complexity and ambition. Since the 1980s, many had taken the form of polyptychs, allowing the artist to juxtapose different textures on grand scales. The present work, indeed, seems to reflect something of this impetus, its surface dividing naturally into two or even three clear sections. This structural zoning seems to evoke Soulages’ early associations with Mark Rothko and other Colour Field painters, many of whom were yoked together under the rubric of Art Informel in the 1950s. The work’s rich, near-sculptural textures, meanwhile, demonstrate the artist’s use of acrylic, which replaced oil as his primary medium during the mid-2000s. Applied in thick pastes, its vertical ridges and grooves allow light to shutter rapidly across the surface, the physicality of the paint dissolving in its wake. Shadows, by contrast, flicker across the white expanse beneath. Forged as the sun began to set upon his art, it is a work of staggering crystalline beauty, giving form to the elemental forces that define our existence.

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