Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages, “Lithograph Number 3″, 1957, 25 x 19 Inches, Museum of Modern Art, New York

As a child, Pierre Soulages was fascinated by the Celtic carvings in the local museum and the architecture of the abbey of Sainte-Foy in nearby Conques, and these early impressions would continue to surface throughout his career. In 1938, inspired by the works of Cezanne and Picasso, he enrolled in the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, but he was disappointed by the traditional instruction and soon moved back to his childhood home of Rodez.

In 1946, Soulages returned to Paris and set up a small studio in Courbevoie. He began to paint in a wholly abstract style, producing canvases with overlapping black, barlike strokes on a glowing white or colored, ground, which he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1947.

Though his rejection of bright color in favor of black set him in opposition to the major trends in French abstract painting of the time, Pierre Soulages was nevertheless a prominent exemplar of the Jeune École de Paris (Young School of Paris), an umbrella term for the gestural or post-Cubist abstraction. in contrast to the gestural approach of his American counterparts, Soulages deliberately constructed his compositions to create a formal balance.