Lot 1010
  • 1010

Pierre Soulages

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 HKD
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  • Pierre Soulages
  • Peinture 10 Octobre 1952
  • executed in 1952
  • oil on canvas
signed in French, framed


Galerie Louis Carré & Cie., Paris
Mr & Mrs Walter Ross, New York
Sotheby's Parke-Bernet, New York, 17 April 1969, lot 160
The Hon. D. Dillon, New York
Christie's, London, 28 June 2001, lot 612
Private Collection
Sotheby's, London, 21 June 2006, lot 49
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale


Switzerland, Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Tendances actuelles de l'Ecole de Paris, 1954, p. 2, no. 90, illustrated
USA, New York, Museum of Modern Art; Minneapolis, Institute of Arts; Los Angeles, County Museum; San Francisco, Museum of Art, The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors, 1955-57, p. 42, illustrated
USA, Denver, Denver Art Museum, Turn of the Century, 1957


Pierre Encrevé, Soulages, L'Oeuvre Complet Peintures, Vol I: 1946-1959, Seuil, Paris, 1994, p. 138, no. 109, illustrated

Catalogue Note

The Chiaroscuro of Black
Pierre Soulages

I like the authority of black. It’s an uncompromising color. A violent color, but one that encourages internalization. Both a color and a non-color. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens up a mental field all of its own. – Pierre Soulages1

Peinture 10 Octobre 1952 (Lot 1010) is archetypal of Pierre Soulages’s sublime orchestrations of light. Widely known for his arresting monochrome abstractions composed of thick black strokes set against radiantly illuminated backgrounds, Soulages repeatedly harnesses the power of black as an exalted bearer of light and chromatic depth, using it as a primary formal element in his compositions. Exuding brilliance and solemnity, transparency and opacity, and texture and form, the dramatic intensity of the dance between light and darkness in Peinture evokes the effect of deep chiaroscuro; indeed, from his youth Soulages was deeply drawn to the works of Claude Gellée and Rembrandt, whose masterful rendering of light significantly impacted his work.

Characteristically resembling rays of light filtering through the window frames of dim church interiors, Soulages’s majestically abstract, almost architectural configurations present complex chromatically unfolding scenes that generate absorbing visual experiences and a distinctively celestial aura. One of Soulages’s earliest influences was the sight of bare tree branches silhouetted against an icy sky; the artist commented in an interview: “Was my childhood fondness for bare trees due to my love of black as a color? Or was it the other way round? Did I begin to love black because of the trees in winter without their leaves; because of the way the black trunks and branches stood out against the background of sky or snow, making them look brighter by contrast…”2

The artist does not, however, intend his paintings to be representational or referential in any way. His forms are purely geometrical and architectural, representing neither sign nor symbol but an attempt simply to present the phenomenon of vision. Soulages himself said: “I don’t depict. I don’t narrate. I don’t represent. I paint, I present.”3 His precise swashes and forceful diagonals of black strokes overlap and interpose with commanding presence and dynamic tension, constituting pure form and composition which speaks for itself, enlivened and irradiated by the absence of signifiers. “I made line combinations which struck the eye of the beholder as a large form”, he said. “One fine day I realized that the drawings I was doing were reminiscent of Chinese characters.”4

While the arresting dynamism of his work attracted comparisons with that of Franz Kline and other goliaths of Abstract Expressionism, Soulages openly defied any such classification and association. In contrast to many Western Abstract Expressionists of his time, Soulages’s work strived for enduring architectonic harmony rather than gestural transience, often concealing the traces of his brushwork in order to foreground form, composition, color and light. In James Johnson Sweeney’s words, Soulages seeks to “remove the trace of movement from the line”5; as such, a Soulages painting is not a melody but “a chord played on the piano and held”.6

By the end of the 1950s Soulages had achieved international recognition. Works from this seminal decade, beginning from his participation in the 26th Venice Biennale in 1952 to his receptions at the Guggenheim New York in 1953 and 1959, are the most desirable works from the artist’s career. The 1950s also saw important developments in Soulages’s technique: in order to accommodate the increasingly large size of his canvases, Soulages employed large builder’s brushes that enabled him to perform authoritative washes and sweeps of color, whose imposing materiality invoked intense contemplation and meditative cogitation. In an essay dedicated to the painter, Henri Meschonic wrote that Soulages’s work contained “neither sign nor thing, but [instead] answer[ed] with the world”. 7

1 Benoit Raimbault, Pierre Soulages, Minimalissimo, Winter 2010, online resource

2 Pierre Soulages in conversation with Bernard Ceysson in: Bernard Ceysson, Eds., Soulages, New York and Switzerland 1980, p. 77

3 The artist cited in: 'Interview with Michel Peppiatt', Art International, November-December, 1980

4 Françoise JAUNIN, Noir lumière, interviews with Pierre Soulages, Lausanne, éditions La Bibliothèque des arts, 2002

5 James JOHNSON SWEENEY, Soulages, éditions Ides et Calendes, 1972

6 Refer to 4

7 Henri Meschonnic, Le rythme et la lumière avec Pierre Soulages, Odile Jacob, 2000