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Peinture 91 x 181 cm, 26 décembre 2014

Peinture 91 x 181 cm, 26 décembre 2014
signed, titled and dated ‘SOULAGES “peinture 91 x 181 cm” 26-12-2014’ (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
35 3/4 x 71 1/4in. (90.8 x 181cm.)
Painted in 2014
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2017.
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. 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. Christie's has provided a minimum price guarantee and has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold. See the Important Notices in the Conditions of Sale for more information.
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming volume V of Soulages. L'œuvre complet. Peintures.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

With its gleaming expanse of black paint raked into rhythmic, reflective splendour, Peinture 91 x 181 cm, 26 décembre 2014 is a spectacular outrenoir painting by Pierre Soulages. Soulages coined the term outrenoir, which translates roughly as ‘beyond black’, in 1979 to describe the new realm he had entered with his all-black canvases. By using paint in a complex range of textures and densities—whether matt, lustrous, coarse, smooth, swept into broad planes or finely striated—he created interactive paintings that were not simply monochrome but full of visual life, constantly changing with ambient light and the position of the viewer. To make the present work, he sculpted thick acrylic paint into a longitudinal field of glossy diagonal strokes. The banks, furrows and ridges, which surge upwards from left to right, were formed by dragging a home-made scraping tool through the pigment. The work’s variegated, scintillating surface transcends blackness to become an experience of light. It was painted in 2014, two days after the artist’s ninety-fifth birthday. The Musée Soulages, a museum in Rodez dedicated to his life’s work, opened that same year.

Soulages was born in Rodez, in the south of France, in 1919. He was inspired from a young age by the timeless power of ancient art, including prehistoric cave paintings and the abbey-church of Sainte-Foy de Conques near his hometown. Standing beneath Sainte-Foy’s huge, shadowy barrel vault gave him what he called his ‘first artistic experience’, and inspired him to become a painter. ‘Even today in Soulages’ handling of paint’, wrote James Johnson Sweeney in 1972, ‘there is something which recalls the warm darkness of that Romanesque interior of Sainte-Foy. For, there, it was no dead blackness, but a live and gently palpitating dark suffused with a subtle illumination which reached its fullness in slashes of light from the high narrow windows and the soft glow where it struck the floors and walls’ (J. Johnson Sweeney, Pierre Soulages, New York 1972, pp. 10-11). The present work shimmers with the same subtlety.

Soulages rose to prominence on both sides of the Atlantic in the decades after the Second World War. His paintings were always distinguished by their sensitivity to light and darkness. Initially working in a bold, calligraphic Informel mode, he experimented with chiaroscuro effects and interlocking beams of paint, arriving by the 1960s at complex, diaphanous works created by the building up and scraping-away of pigment. It was this turn towards the matter of paint itself—the matière—that led to the breakthrough of the outrenoirs in 1979. He continued to explore their potential until his death, at the age of 102, in 2022. From 2004 onwards he used acrylic paint rather than oil, taking advantage of its quick-drying properties to shape increasingly dynamic and reflective surfaces, often at monumental scale. The present work exemplifies the grandeur of these late works. As with all his paintings, it alludes to no outside meaning. Its factual title of date and dimensions fixes it as an object in time. Nonetheless, as the light of the external world dances across its surface, it is created anew with each viewer’s encounter.

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