25 février 2020

Pierre Soulages (French, born 1919), Peinture 65 x 92 cm, 9 février 1960, 1960


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Lot 11. Pierre Soulages (French, born 1919), Peinture 65 x 92 cm, 9 février 1960, 1960, signed; signed and dated 9 Fev 60 on the reverse, oil on canvas, 65 by 92 cm, 25 9/16 by 36 1/4 inEstimate £ 700,000 - 1,000,000 (€ 830,000 - 1,200,000)© Bonhams 2001-2020.

Provenance: Galerie de France, Paris
Henri-Georges et Inès Clouzot Collection, Paris
Sale: Christie's, Paris, Collection Henri-Georges et Inès Clouzot - Vente au profit du Secours Catholique, 1 December 2012, Lot 35
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner.

Exhibited: Paris, Galerie de France, Soulages, 1960, n.p., illustrated in black and white
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellshaft; Essen, Folkwang Museum; La Haye, Gemeente Museum; Zurich, Kunsthaus, Pierre Soulages, 1960-1961, p. 32, no. 72, illustrated in black and white.

Literature: Pierre Encrevé, L'œuvre complet, Peintures II. 1959-1978, Paris 1995, p. 77, no. 415, illustrated in colour (incorrectly titled).

NotePreviously in the prominent collection of film producer Henri-Georges Clouzot and his wife Inès, Peinture 65 x 92 cm, 9 février 1960 is a dramatic and resonant example of Pierre Soulages celebrated and bold paintings. Black tar-like paint is swept across the canvas in strong horizontal brushstrokes, drawing the eye from one side to the other and back again. Applied thickly, small areas of the black paint drip seductively from the striated strokes where Soulages has dragged the palette across the surface, revealing the pigment and canvas underneath in a theatre of compositional harmony and physical immediacy. 

In the late 1950s, Soulages developed the raclage technique which would herald in a crucial period of change to the artist's oeuvre and is sublimely demonstrated in this present work. Applying thick layers of impasto to the still wet undercoat on the canvas, Soulages uses the spatula to scrape and structure the black pigment into sensuous and sweeping veils of paint, revealing the layers underneath. The motion creates an interplay between the medium and light, as a certain sense of luminosity emanates from the canvas and through the paint. Despite the use of black, a favourite colour of the artist, the darkness of the pigment has been applied with such a distinctive method, it captures and reflects light in a wondrous display of balance and unity. This process of addition and subtraction merged in a singular stroke unites the canvas, the pigment and composition in one movement, neither elevating one nor the other to a level of higher importance. Instead each aspect is considered equal as they are all active components of the work. 

"The years 1957-1963 particularly illustrate one of Soulages's characteristic techniques in the double treatment of the surface: that of scraping, or, if one prefers, transparency through uncovering. On the prepared canvas (primed in white), he applies a layer of paint covering part or all of the surface, upon which he superimposes, while the paint is fresh, one or more layers of different colour. He then uncovers a part of the background using the same soft-bladed spatulas that he more often loads with black paint: according to the power and the shape of the movement, this scraping will remove paint all the way down to the canvas, or only as far as one of the intermediate layers. A subtle mixture of the different layers' colours is created, each time surprising for the painter himself; infinite variations of colour are discovered on the canvas; new luminosities, and unexpected colour intensities through transparencies of black..." (Pierre Encrevé, "Le noir et l'outrenoir," in Soulages: Noir Lumière, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris 1996, p. 30). 

1960 was a significant year for Soulages. Aside from being widely lauded in New York and celebrated as one of the foremost artists of his generation, Galerie de France exhibited a solo show of works from 1959 and 1960. Soulages considered this to be a major exhibition of great importance, of which one of the works exhibited was Peinture 65 x 92 cm, 9 février 1960. A retrospective of Soulages work was also shown at Kestner-Gesellshaft in Hannover and further important exhibitions were undertaken throughout the 1960s, solidifying his place in the canon of international contemporary art. 

Soulages' paintings perfectly balance the relationship between dramatic force, light, colour and form. A seminal painting, Peinture 65 x 92 cm, 9 février 1960 elegantly captures the gesture and movement, the light and dark, and the drama that is imbued in each of his enigmatic paintings. Lauded today as one of the most important artists of the last and current centuries, Soulages' work is being honoured in two major retrospectives celebrating 100 years of the artist life at the Louvre and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris concurrently. Soulages' work is can also be found in some of the world's most important institutions including the MoMA, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro among many others. In 2014 the Musée Soulages was opened in Rodez, France to celebrate the artist's life and work.

Bonhams. Post-War & Contemporary Art, London, 12 March 2020


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