French painter Pierre Soulages, who dedicated his career to the deepest color black, has died at the age of 102

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Pierre Soulagesthe abstract French painter who dedicated his work exclusively to the color black for more than 40 years has died at the age of 102 Soulages Museum in his hometown of Rodez, France.

“Black has been fundamental to me since I was a kid,” Soulages said New York Times in 2014.

In the same story that Times called Soulages the most financially successful living artist in France. That year, then-President Francois Hollande also announced that Soulages “the greatest living artist in the world.”

At the time, the artist’s average auction price had risen more than 500 percent over the past decade – and demand has continued to rise. Soulages’ auction record rose from £4.34 million ($6.6 million) in 2013 to $20.1 million at Sotheby’s New York last November, the company said Artnet price database.

France’s current President Emmanuel Macron tweeted the artist’s death, saying: “Pierre Soulages was able to reinvent black by revealing the light. Beyond the darkness, his works are living metaphors from which each of us draws hope.”

After previous works contrasting black with other colors, the artist adopted his signature hue outside of, or “Beyond Black” paintings, thanks to a work he initially dismissed as a failure. But the canvas wasn’t really the “black swamp” it appeared to be – the thick strokes of paint were reflective, Soulages recognized.

“Light comes from color, which is the absence of light,” he says press said at the opening of his 2009 exhibition at the Center Pompidou in Paris – the largest the institution has ever devoted to a living artist. The resulting interplay of light and reflection in his paintings, he explained, creates “a new mental space” for the viewer.

The work of Pierre Soulages in the Musée Soulages, Rodez, France. Photo by Christian Richters/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

“I love black authority, its rigor, its obviousness, its radicalism,” Soulages said Agence France Press in 2019. “It’s a very active color. It lights up when placed next to a dark color.”

Soulages continued to paint regularly even as he celebrated his 100th birthday in 2019 and helped celebrate the occasion a great retrospective in the Louvre in Paris. In 2017, he left Paris to move full-time into the summer home in Sète he bought some 60 years earlier.

Represented in the collections of more than 110 institutions, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London, Soulages was also the first living artist to exhibit at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg became.

<em>Painting 162 x 130 cm, July 9, 1961</em> by Pierre Soulages.  Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd 2020.” width=”639″ height=”800″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2020/10/127785518.jpg 639w, https:// news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2020/10/127785518-240×300.jpg 240w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2020/10/127785518-40×50.jpg 40w” sizes=”(max-width: 639px) 100vw, 639px”/></p>
<p id=Pierre Soulages Painting 162 x 130 cm, July 9, 1961. Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd 2020.

In the 1950s he exhibited for the first time in New York with the dealer Samuel M. Kootz and encountered the New York School artists of the then burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement. But the gallery closed in 1966, and Soulages never quite achieved the fame he had achieved back home in the United States

“It’s history and contemporary at the same time,” said Emilio Steinberger of New York’s Lévy Gorvy Gallery (now part of LGDR). started representing Soulages in 2014he said Times in 2019. “He was friends with Giacometti and Rothko; He began when Pollock was just beginning to cast paintings. You’re talking to someone who was at the center of history in Paris and New York and who is still a very contemporary artist at the moment. There is almost nothing else like it.”

Soulages is survived by his 80-year-old wife, Colette Soulages, at the age of 101.

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