The Financial Times looks at Pierre Soulages artistic and market beginnings on the occasion of his Centre Pompidou retrospective:
Soulages’s fascination for the artistic possibilities of the colour black dates back even further than he can remember: “A cousin of mine, who is 100 years old, told Pierre Encrevé, the curator of this exhibition, that when I was a boy I dipped my paintbrush in the ink-well and began to paint swathes of black on a white sheet of paper. When my family asked me what I was doing, apparently I replied: ‘Painting snow’. Of course that made everyone laugh. But I was a shy child and not trying to show off. Looking back now, I think I was trying to make the white paper appear whiter by laying down the black.” […]
By his own recollection, Soulages started painting seriously in 1940. His first major exhibition was in Germany in 1948 as part of a collective of abstract painters. It was the first exhibition of abstract art in a German city since the rise and fall of the Nazis. At 27 years old, Soulages was easily the youngest artist to be exhibited.[…] But it was Soulages’s distinctive walnut stain painting that was chosen for the exhibition’s poster, a copy of which is on display at the Pompidou Centre. “It’s interesting because most American painters of the time got to know my work because of that poster,” he notes.
By 1954 the influential American art dealer Samuel Kootz was selling Soulages’s paintings all over the US, to large museums, but also to European expatriate filmmakers such as Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger. Such precocious success by a Frenchman was not universally welcomed by the American art world. But Soulages, who had been forewarned by the French painter and poet Francis Picabia that he would not want for enemies, shrugged it off.
Pierre Soulages and His All-Black Canvases (Financial Times)