Pierre Soulages, the immense artist who taught us to see light in the dark, leaves us today at the age of 102, at the end of a dazzling career that leaves us with a deeply renewed visual imagination.

In a unique work, Pierre Soulages has channelled the power of ancient pictorial traditions. Rock paintings that have marked him so much as a child, statues-menhir, stained glass windows of Conques… He who declared that “everything in art is metaphysical” has renewed its echo with infinite freedom.

A formidable painter, Pierre Soulages was also a magician of matter. He navigated between nut, copper, ink, paint and earth. By exploring all genres, he forged in the 1940s a singular style quickly recognized by conservatives, amateurs and gallery owners around the world and especially in the United States where he was exhibited in 1954.

In his work, he first makes the light spring by the contrast between the white of the canvas and the color, especially black, which he associates with blue, brown, red. He then discovers that black in its very matter reflects, transmits, transforms light. This luminous black that creates its own contrast will become the outrenoir, signature of the master.

Large, untitled abstract canvases that capture – to use Michel Ragon’s expression – “the pulsations of the world and the great rhythms of nature” with strong waters and stained glass windows for the abbey of Conques, For more than 80 years, the work of Pierre Soulages has touched and fascinated a wide range of audiences beyond the world of museums. There are winemakers, artisans, physicists, who will speak with passion and emotion about their encounter with the art of Pierre Soulages.

In 2001, he was the first living artist invited to exhibit at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. For his 90th birthday, in 2009, the Centre Pompidou in Paris offered him the largest retrospective ever devoted to an artist living before the magnificent exhibition dedicated to him at the Louvre on the occasion of his centenary.

On this day of mourning, I think of his loved ones, of all those around him, in Sète, where, without ever laying down his brush, he lived and worked until the last day. I am thinking of Rodez, his hometown, where, on the basis of an exceptional donation, the magnificent Soulages Museum, labelled Musée de France, was built. In Montpellier, where its wonderful polyptics hung in a glass pavilion have been bringing serenity to visitors to the Fabre Museum since 2007.

Pierre Soulages loved to recount that it was during a school visit to the abbey of Conques that the twelve-year-old boy he was, orphan of father, living far from any artistic universe, had the revelation of the beautiful, and of his vocation: It produced in me such excitement that I said to myself: There is only one important thing in life, and that is art. I like to paint, I’ll be a painter.”

His work is the best demonstration of what art can do in this world, to emancipate and dazzle.
I extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Colette, his family and his loved ones.