Lot 8
  • 8

PIERRE SOULAGES | Peinture 97 x 147 cm, 2 février 1954

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 EUR
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  • Soulages
  • Peinture 97 x 147 cm, 2 février 1954
  • signed; signed and dated 2 février 1954 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 96,5 x 146 cm; 38 x 57 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 1954.


Kootz Gallery, New York (acquired in 1954)
Private Collection, New York (acquired in 1960)
Private Collection, France 


New York, Kootz Gallery, Soulages, 26 April - 15 May 1954
Chicago, Arts Club, Mathieu-Soulages, 3 - 29 December 1954


James Johnson Sweeney, Soulages, Neuchâtel, 1972
Pierre Daix, James Johnson Sweeney, Pierre Soulages, Neuchâtel, 1991
Pierre Encrevé, Soulages, l'oeuvre complet Peintures, I. 1946-1959, Paris, 1994, p. 180, no. 141, illustrated in colour
Cat. exh; Paris, Galerie Pascal Lansberg, Soulages, 16 October - 12 December 2009, pp. 18-21, illustrated in colour


Merci de vous adresser au département d'Art Contemporain si vous souhaitez recevoir un rapport d'état professionnel de cette oeuvre. Please refer to the Contemporary Art Department for a professional Condition report.
"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

The American gallerist Sam Kootz opened his art gallery in the mid-forties in the heart of New York City, after publishing several leading art history books. His relevance to the global art scene had today become evident as his sharp eye designed some of the most memorable exhibitions of the post-war era confronting Picasso, Arp, Braque, Miro and Leger with American Abstract expressionists such as Motherwell, Hofmann and Gottlieb amongst others. He soon became the first American dealer to exhibit the works by Pierre Soulages.
In January 1954, Sam Kootz obtained Soulages' address from James John Sweeney and wrote him a letter. Sweeney, at the time a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, was a passionate collector of international Twentieth Century avant-gardes such as Burri, Calder, César, Alberto Giacometti, Fontana, de Kooning and Léger to name a just a few. He decided to exhibit the works of the young French artist at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1953, in a  group show entitled Young American Painters.
The letter sent by Kootz only a few months after discovering Soulages' work at the Guggenheim, written in French by his spouse Jane Kootz, displayed such enthusiasm for the artist's abstract works that Soulages freely agreed on an exhibition in New York and decided to send over ten large sized canvasses to the Kootz gallery, including Peinture 97 x 147 cm, 2 février 1954. His first solo show taking place in April was a huge success as Kootz well noted in a letter declaring "I have been enormously satisfied with the paintings you sent me. I believe they do you great credit. In this, I found all our American painters agree, as well as the collectors, and museum directors like Sweeney and Barr, whom both liked the show immensely. I feel very strongly this exhibition will entrench your reputation here in New York." (Letter from Samuel Kootz to Pierre Soulages, May 3rd 1954) Eight of the ten works, along with Peinture 97 x 147 cm, février 1954, were to be shown next in Chicago at the Arts Club in December 1954. Almost all works were sold within the same year.
If the year 1954 marks the beginning of a rewarding collaboration between the French painter and the American dealer, it's interesting to point out that it is indeed the second exhibition Kootz organized for Soulages that turned out to be one of his biggest success, being sold out before the exhibition even shut its doors. 'I have not had so enthusiastic a reception since my first post-war Picasso show in 1947 when all the pictures were sold on the first day' recalls Kootz in a letter to Soulages on May 11th 1955.
The beautifully balanced composition presented here marks the beginning of the historical and international career of Pierre Soulages. The present lot with its large scale of 97 x 147 cm, is part of the 5 largest canvasses from a series of 26 rare works dated 1954. In this outstanding work, kept in two private collections since its creation, the virtuosity in sculpting the space and playing with light through the fine dark impastos is absolutely astounding. These elements undoubtedly contribute to making this particular artwork a historical painting by one from one of the most influential European artists of the Twentieth Century.