Structured Abstraction: A 1950s Pierre Soulages Masterpiece

Hong Kong | 7 October

French modernist master Pierre Soulages (b. 1919) is the only living post-war abstract painter from the new School of Paris. Because of his challenging, subversive, and creative style, he has remained an important artist with his finger on the pulse of the international art scene since the 1940s. Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956 was painted in the 1950s, a decade of intense change for Soulages. In 1955, he held a solo exhibition at the influential Gimpel Fils Gallery in London. That same year, following shows for Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell, Soulages exhibited at Kootz Gallery in New York, a gallery that played an important role in American post-war art. In 1956, Soulages also held an influential show with Galerie de France, a Parisian gallery devoted to abstract art. Pierre Soulages experienced immense success in Europe and the United States, and he painted Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956 at the height of his prestige.

In a turbulent post-war world, artists gained a new understanding of expression and creation. Artists including Soulages abandoned representational methods and established an abstract artistic language within the post-war avant-garde. In Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956, glimmering gold and bronze tones seem to emerge from the pitch blackness—the epitome of simple elegance. The thick, heavy brushstrokes are accented by refracted white light. He once said, ‘Black is never the same because light changes it.’

In 1959, Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956 was shown as part of Documenta II, one of the most important contemporary art events in Germany and Europe. Soulages was the only artist to participate in all of the first three editions of Documenta. This work was also shown at the Redfern Gallery in London in 1959 and 1962, at Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Gallery in New York in 1977, and at Berlinische Galerie in 1988. Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 3 décembre 1956, with its notable exhibition history and complete documentation, bears witness to Soulages’ six-decade international career and his important place among the post-war masters.

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