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Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)

Peinture 195 x 155 cm., 7 février 1957

Details
Pierre Soulages (b. 1919)
Peinture 195 x 155 cm., 7 février 1957
signed and dated ‘Soulages 57 (lower right); dated ‘7_Février 1957’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
76.3/4 x 61.1/8in. (195 x 155cm.)
Painted in 1957
Provenance
Kootz Gallery, New York.
Jacques Gelman, New York.
Anon. sale, Palais Galliera Paris, 18 June 1971, lot 101.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
P. Encrevé, Soulages, L'oeuvre complet Peintures I. 1946-1959, Paris 1994, pp. 107 and 294, no. 280 (illustrated in colour, p. 242).
Exhibited
New York, Kootz Gallery, Soulages, 1957.
Carcassone, L’arrière-pays, cité de Carcassonne, 1992 (illustrated in colour).
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.

Lot Essay

‘Soulages makes the blue colour shine – because the blue is intensified by black, or because a bright ground shines through the blue’ (A. Rygg Karberg, Painting the Light, exh. cat., Vienna, Sammlung Essl, 2006, p. 22).

‘A definitive moment in his artistic practice, the years 1956-1957 saw Soulages’ paintings evolve in a new direction. Allowing sweeping passages of black to overlap, works from this period have an energy internal drive and dynamism. According to Pierre Encrevé’s catalogue raisonné, the best examples of this tendency include the present work and two further works both in museum collections: Peinture, 1er août 1956 (no. 238), which forms part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Peinture, 14 août 1956 (no. 242), part of the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris and housed at the Centre Pompidou, Paris’

‘Black, I’ve always loved. [...] It has always been the foundation of my palette. It is the absence of colour the most intense, the most violent, which gives an intense and violent presence in the colours, even white, as a tree makes the sky blue’ (P. Soulages, quoted in P. Schneider, ‘The Louvre Soulages’, in Evidence, no. 143, June 1963, pp. 46-53).

Bold and monumental, Pierre Soulages’ Peinture, 7 février 1957 confronts the viewer with dynamic strokes of thick black paint layered upon sweeping passages of translucent, gauzy blue. A definitive moment in his artistic practice, the years 1956-1957 saw Soulages’ paintings evolve in a new direction. Allowing sweeping passages of black to overlap, works from this period have a unique energy, internal drive and dynamism. According to Pierre Encrevé’s catalogue raisonné, the best examples of this tendency include the present work and two further works both in museum collections: Peinture, 1er août 1956 (no. 238), which forms part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and Peinture, 14 août 1956 (no. 242), part of the collection of the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris and housed at the Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Created at a pivotal moment in the artist’s career, the year 1957 saw Soulages garnering major international reception, receiving the first prize at the International Exhibition in Tokyo conjointly with Sam Francis, as well as the Windsor prize in Paris. Significantly, it also marked the artist’s first trip to New York in November of that year for his solo exhibition at the acclaimed Kootz Gallery. It was at this seminal one-man exhibition at Kootz Gallery that the present work was exhibited and purchased by Jacques Gelman, the renown collector of 20th century European art whose collection now resides in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, remaining in his personal collection until its sale in 1971 to the private collection where it has since remained for over 40 years. In a letter from Sam Kootz in advance of the exhibition, the gallerist predicted the excitement mounting for Soulages in New York: ‘I have been enormously satisfied with the paintings you sent me. I believe they do you great credit. In this, I find all our American painters agree, as well as the collectors and museum directors like Sweeney and Barr, both of whom like the show immensely. I feel very strongly this exhibition will entrench your reputation here in New York (S. Kootz, quoted in a letter to P. Soulages, May 3, 1954, quoted in P. Encreve, Soulages. L’Oeuvre Complet, Peintures I, 1946-1959, Paris 1994, p. 158). Having exhibited his work with Kootz in 1954, Soulages’ international reputation preceded him; indeed his reception in America was more prominent than that of his native France, having enjoyed exhibitions at the Arts Club of Chicago and inclusion in the New Decade exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The much anticipated artist’s arrival in New York in 1957 saw Soulages receiving major receptions at the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim as well as being warmly received by the local artists, with curator Sam Hunter hosting a party in his honour and further invitations to the studios of Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Franz Kline.

Between 1956 and 1958, Soulages carried out only four paintings with the same vertical format and momentum, the present work being the largest at nearly two metres tall. The others are Peinture, 4 août 1957 (no. 293), Peinture, 6 août 1956 (no. 239) (Australian National Gallery, Canberra) and Peinture, 7 mars 1958 (no. 319). A departure from the artist’s previous tendency toward structuring the canvas horizontally, here stacked vertical swatches of black are juxtaposed against a striking diagonal sweep, introducing a dynamism to the canvas. The artist likes this idea of disrupted repetition, this staccato rhythm which brings dynamism to the painting. Indeed, when asked by Pierre Schneider during a visit to the Louvre about his favourite paintings at the Museum, without hesitating he mentioned Bataille de San Romano by Paolo Ucello, explaining that 'these repetitions, this vertical perpetually broken by diagonals, the space created by this repeated beating. This inextricable mixture of coherency and incoherency’ particularly attracted him (P. Schneider, 'Au Louvre avec Soulages’, Preuves, no. 143, June 1963, pp. 46-53).

Often placing his canvases on the ground and working above them, Soulages used a knife or spatula to scrape the layer of paint while still fresh to reveal the layers of vivid blues, creating a sublime transparent surface from the most opaque black. It is this subtle interplay between the black and the underlying blues exemplified in the present work that captures one of the key aspects of Soulages’s painting. The expanses of black offer up chromatic possibilities for other colours, in this case by adding contrast to the blue, making it appear luminously vibrant, as Rygg Karberg suggests, ‘Soulages makes the blue colour shine – because the blue is intensified by black, or because a bright ground shines through the blue’ (A. Rygg Karberg, Painting the Light, exh. cat., Vienna, Sammlung Essl, 2006, p. 22). It is through this reductive process of pulling colour that Soulages employs to generate the light in his black canvases.

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