Lot 242
  • 242

Pierre Soulages

160,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Pierre Soulages
  • Peinture, 1 Juin 1953
  • signed; titled and dated 1 juin 53 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 92.4 by 65.5cm.; 36 3/8 by 25 3/4 in.


Hugh Chisholm, Bern
Sale: Christie's, London, 2 April 1974
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art: Part II, 9 May 1996, Lot 152
Gertrude Stein Gallery, New York


Berne, Kunsthalle, Tendances Actuelles de l'Ecole de Paris, 1954, no. 92 


Pierre EncrevĂ©, Soulages, L'Oeuvre Complet Peintures: I, 1946-1959, Paris 1994, p. 146, illustrated in colour 


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although the overall tonality is much deeper and richer in the actual work where the background tends more to dark grey and the browns to deep chestnut. Condition: This work is in good condition. There is light wear to all four corners. There is intermittent craquelure in places throughout, notably to the thicker passages of black pigment, with some associated minor lifting in the lower right quadrant and towards the upper right corner. There are several tiny specks of paint loss resulting from this - one 15 cm to the right of the centre of the composition, and one to the centre of the upper left quadrant. There are areas of frame rubbing in places along the top and bottom edges with an associated 3cm paint loss to the centre of the bottom edge. There are no signs of any retouching when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

"Linked by laws as clear as classical thought and as simple as musical number, the characters follow one another, cling together and interweave to form an irreversible web, unyielding even to the hand that wove it. No sooner inscribed in the surface - which they penetrate with intelligence - than, stripped of the inessentials of shifting human intelligence, they become thought of the stone of which they take the grain. Hence the hard composition, the density, the internal equilibrium, and the angular shapes: attributes as essential as geometry to the crystal. Hence their defiance to those who would learn their secret. They scorn to be read. They can dispense with voice or music. They are indifferent to the changing accents and syllables in which they are rendered from province to province. They do not express, they signify, they exist." (Victor Segalen, Stèles, quoted in Bernard Ceyson Soulages, Bergamo, 1980, p. 5)

These comments, frequently quoted by the artist, cut to the quick of the Soulages' aesthetic ambitions. As evidenced by the seemingly stark title of this piece Peinture, 1 Juin, 1953, Soulages intended for his works to exist as enigmatic and imperturbable entities, separate from conventional post-war art '-isms'. He created a poetry of space and form under-pinned by a fascination in the function of image-making and the plasticity of the materials. These paintings are post-historical, resisting easy interpretation and operating beyond any social context; this painting is not a document but an artefact. The image is empowered by the play of simple opposites upon one another; the interplay of white and black both pigmentally and in the reflections off the black paint give rise to an elegant and mysterious sensation that completely inhabits the work, nothing further is necessary. Peinture, 1 Juin, 1953 is a stunning example of the artist's examination of these seemingly simple elements rendered in a memorably potent and unique manner by one of the great masters of post-war European art.