Born in Rodez, France, 1919
Pierre Soulages is a French abstract painter, engraver, lithographer and designer.
Soulages moved to Paris in 1938 to study painting, however after viewing exhibitions of Cézanne and Picasso’s work he decided not to join Ecole des Beaux-Arts and returned to Rodez. He was drafted in 1940 and later worked as a farmer during the German Occupation. During this time he met Sonia Delaunay who introduced him to abstract art.
After the end of the war, Soulages settled in Paris and resumed painting. His first non-figurative works have been attributed to 1947. He was soon visited in the studio by James Sweeney, the late director of the Guggenheim Museum, who became a key supporter of his work. In 1949, his first solo exhibition took place in Paris at the Galerie Lydia Conti and his first museum acquisition followed to the Museé de Grenoble. That same year, he designed the costumes and set for Roger Vailland’s ballet Héloïse et Abélard.
In 1952 he began experimenting with etching and it is from these he later produced his first and only sculptural works, three bronze reliefs, in 1975. Significant public commissions soon followed including a glass mosaic window for the Suermond-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, and the ceramic decoration for a skyscraper in Pittsburgh. Another major commission was to design one hundred and four new windows for the Romanesque abbey in Conques in 1987. A three volume catalogue raisonné was published in 1994 by Pierre Encrevé.
Soulages was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, in 2001. His 2009 retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, was the venue’s fourth most visited exhibition in its history. After a significant donation from the artist, the Musée Soulages opened in Rodez in 2014.
He has had a number of major solo exhibitions in France and abroad including at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Musée National D’Art Moderne, Paris; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Museu de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin.
His work is included in several international public collections including, Art Institute Chicago; County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York and Tate, London.
Awards include Rembrandt Award, Amsterdam (1976), Foreign Honorary Member for Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York (1979), Grand Prix National for Painting, Paris (1986), Praemium Imperiale Prize for Painting, Tokyo (1992), Austrian Decoration of Honour for Science and Art (2006), Prix Julio González, Valencia (2006) and Légion d’honneur, Paris (2015).