Pierre Soulages Will Become the Latest Living Artist to Show at the Louvre This December—Just in Time for His 100th Birthday

The show will look back at the many stages of his seven-decade career.

Pierre Soulages. Photo by Eric Vandeville/Gamma-Raph/Getty Images.

This December, French painter Pierre Soulages will celebrate his 100th birthday. He will also be the subject of solo exhibition at the Louvre, making him one of a handful of contemporary artists to show work in the famed museum.

“Homage to Soulages,” which has been organized by Pierre Encrevé, the art historian behind Soulages’s catalogue raisonné, and Alfred Pacquement, the former director of the Centre Pompidou, will cover every stage of the artist’s seven-decade career from 1946 until today.

Special attention will be paid to his dense polyptychs from the late 1970s and ‘80s, as well as a number of large paintings done in recent months. The show opens on December 11, 2019 and will take over the entirety of the museum’s Salon Carré, which normally shows 12th to 15th-century paintings.

With the exhibition, Soulages joins just a handful of contemporary artists, including Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, and François Morellet, to present work at the Louvre.

Pierre Soulages, <i>Peinture 165 x 130 cm, 25 julliet 2017</i> (2017). Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.

Pierre Soulages, Peinture 165 x 130 cm, 25 julliet 2017 (2017). Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy.

Often regarded as one of France’s greatest living artists, Soulages was born on December 24, 1919, in the southern part of the country. He settled in Paris after World War II, and by the mid-‘50s had emerged as something of an art star in Europe and the US, where he exhibited widely in galleries and institutional group shows. 

Though he began working with black paint early in his career, it wasn’t until the ‘70s that he became synonymous with the color. In a 1979 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, he debuted a painting he called Outrenoir, a French word that roughly translates to “beyond black.”

Since then, he has devoted much of his time to making paintings with thick layers of black paint that absorb ambient light to subtle, shifting effect. 

Known for his perfectionist streak, Soulages makes his own tools and works in empty spaces to avoid distractions. To this day, he will burn a canvas if he’s not satisfied with it. “If it is mediocre, it goes,” he told AFP earlier this year

Lévy Gorvy, one of Soulages’s American galleries, will also open a solo show in New York this week. Perrotin, who also represents the artist, will present an exhibition of Soulages’s work at its Shanghai space in November

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