Bonham’s announced that an oil painting by French artist and Postwar heavyweight, Pierre Soulages will star in their upcoming London Contemporary sale scheduled for March 12th. Estimated at £5.5-7.5m, the black and red painting is a masterpiece-level work executed at a seminal period in Soulages’s career in the late 1950s. Concurrently, the Louvre is honoring his artistic legacy with a solo exhibition of paintings spanning across all periods of the centenarian painter’s decades-long career.
Renowned for his quintessential black brushstroke amplified against a light ground, Soulages’s method earned the tag outrenoir, meaning “beyond black”. Like his AbEx contemporaries Mark Rothko and Franz Kline, Soulages’s minimal palette and expressionist technique have attracted commercial and institutional demand for many years. The markedly different aspect of this work to his others is its colorful background. Few of Soulages’s works were completed in this palette where black is imbued with a carmine red, deepening it with an oxblood effect. The red background gives life to Soulages’s colorless black brushstrokes which is a hook for collectors with a taste for drama.
Notably, this painting last sold publicly at Christie’s in 1998 for $111,921. Although there have not been many Soulages paintings with this square composition available in the secondary market, similar comparable works have come to auction in recent years, including Pienture 23 décembre 1959, which sold in 2018 at a Christie’s Evening sale in New York for $10.6m.