14th May 1958

Pierre Soulages

Medium : Painting

Size : 96,5 x 130cm

Pierre Soulages used a diverse range of organic matter like tar, lamp black and ivory black, as used in prehistoric art and the first charcoal drawings made in the darkness of caves.

Pierre Soulages’ painting is a dialogue with the painting itself.

The painting presented here is one such example. The composition is reasonably classical and respects the lines of force and pressure points, with the masses balanced within the frame.
The shade and transparency in the areas of contact between the background and the signs, the visible overlapping of successive layers of paint create a depth of field in the painting.




© Adagp, Paris, 1958
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The guide



Reduction, overlapping and variation around the colour black. These are the main techniques used in the work entitled 14th May 1958, in reference to the day it was painted. The reduction is the limited range of colour used by the artist Pierre Soulages. Here, only a deep black with the occasional touch of brown are used. Black is in fact one of the main objects of the artist’s research. Throughout his various paintings, the artist demonstrates the extraordinary density of the colour. In this work, he emphasises the contrast of the black on the light background. But most importantly, several layers of paint are applied to vary the intensity.     It is by layering that the artist has created the work.  He applies the paint but scrapes it back in some places. The traces of various passages are visible and even brought out by the overlapping of different layers.   The different stages of the work can almost be ‘re-enacted’.  In what order did the artist paint the various layers? Observing the work becomes a game of deduction.    Look again at how the paint becomes a thick layer of matter that reflects the light in some places. The seemingly plain canvas becomes three-dimensional, highlighting the inexhaustible variations of the colour black.