- Pierre Soulages
- Peinture 81 x 60 cm, 16 octobre 1956
- signed; signed and dated 16 oct 56 on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 81 by 60cm.; 31 7/8 by 23 5/8 in.
Henri M. Peyre, New Haven
Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1980
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As light forces its way through dense sweeps of inky black and is dispersed with a mesmeric luminescence, Peinture 81 x 60 cm, 16 octobre 1956 exemplifies the calligraphic dance of deep black that enunciates Soulages’ appreciation for the visual potential of this ‘non-colour’. Its quality as a reflector and transformer of light was elucidated by the artist when he explained: “I like the authority of black. It’s an uncompromising colour. A violent colour, but one that encourages internalisation. Both a colour and a non-colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens up a mental field all of its own” (Benoit Raimbault, Pierre Soulages, Minimalissimo, Winter 2010, online resource). In Soulages' work, black is not used to introduce darkness, but is instead heralded as a bearer of light and chromatic depth. Tinged with radiant suggestions of cobalt and sapphire hues the diagonal swathes of jet black encapsulate the artist’s overarching penchant for black as a ‘contrast-former’ – intensifying the vibrancy and luminosity of other colours. The glossy layers of terse thick bands simultaneously exude radiance and sobriety, transparency and opacity, texture and form. A dramatic symphony of darkness and illumination that certifies Peinture 81 x 60 cm, 16 octobre 1956 as a magnificent example of the artist’s revered 1950s paintings.
As pointed out by Bernard Ceysson, “the paintings of Soulages display an admirable continuity, a poetry of space and light, and a mastery of form, which gives his work a unique position in the mainstream of modern art” (Bernard Ceysson, Soulages, Bergamo 1980, p. 6). At his first showing in America at the beginning of the 1950s, Soulages’ work attracted comparisons with that of the American artist Franz Kline and other goliaths of Abstract Expressionism, such as Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell. However, Soulages has since defied any classification and association with the ‘isms’ of his time. While the work of many Abstract Expressionists summons the viewer to lose themselves within the canvas' sublimity, the homogenous layers of viscous paint that have solidified in dense striations across the surface of Soulages’ canvases instil his paintings with a concrete materiality, imposing a visual investigation of tangible reality through form and luminosity. Projecting a singular beauty of light, colour and texture, Peinture 81 x 60 cm, 16 octobre 1956 is a truly exceptional painting, which persuasively pronounces Soulages as a seminal protagonist within the drama of abstract art.