Famous French artist leads specialist print auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 16th May, 2015

A rare colour aquatint on paper by French artist Pierre Soulages called Untitled 1957 is one of the major attractions at Leonard Joel’s forthcoming Specialist Prints & Photography auction from 11.30am Thursday May 18 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.

Born in 1919 in Rodez, Aveyron, Soulages is known as “the painter in black” owing to his interest “both as a colour and non-colour”.

According to Soulages, when light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it, opening a mental field all its own.

He sees light as a work material – striations of his paintings’ black surfaces enable him to reflect light, bringing it out of the darkness and turning it into a luminous colour.

Before World War II, Soulages toured Paris museums and, following his wartime military service, opened a studio in the French capital – holding his first exhibition there in 1947.

In 1979, Soulages was made a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

From 1987 to 1994, he produced 104 stained glass windows for the Romanesque abbey church Sainte-Foy in Conques, Aveyron – and seven years later became the first living artist to exhibit at the state Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg.

In 2006, Sotheby’s sold a composition Soulages created in 1959 for €1.2 million.

The following year, the Musée Fabre de Montpelier devoted an entire room to the artist, presenting his donation, which included 20 paintings from 1951 to 2006 featuring major works from the 1960s and 1970s, to the city.

A retrospective of his art was held from October 2009 to March 2010 at the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou followed by a similar showing at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico.

In 2014, Musée Soulages, dedicated to permanently displaying his work, opened in his hometown.  

The auction contains works by leading Australian artists such as John Olsen’s Lily Pond digital print, Margaret Olley’s Marigolds and Fruits 2009, Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series offset lithograph, Charles Blackman’s Contemplation etching, John Coburn’s Trio 1975 screenprint, Dean Bowen’s Red Dog 2002 lithograph, Dora Chapman’s The Girl with a Long Nose 1970 and David Boyd’s Beauty and the White Horse screenprint. 

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