A French painting purchased in Melbourne in 1953 has been repatriated selling for $5.26m earlier this month in Paris. For 67 years the painting had hung in a private house in Melbourne until it was ‘rediscovered’ by Smith & Singer who returned it to France on behalf of an Australian client, the son of the original purchaser.
Painted by Pierre Soulages, and known as 25 novembre 1950, it came to Australia in 1953 as part of an exhibition, French Painting Today, which toured to state galleries, showcasing contemporary works including Picasso, Miró, Léger and Braque. A Melbourne resident, described as ‘a modest collector who fell in love with the Soulages and looked at it every day of his life’, made the purchase of a lifetime. Pierre Soulages is considered France’s greatest living artist. Having turned 100 last year, he is indeed living, with his wife Colette, a younger woman of only 98. They were married in 1942.
Soulages is known as ‘the painter of black’ which he regards as ‘both a colour and a non-colour’. He adds, ‘When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it’. Since 1979, he has worked exclusively in black, creating works he calls outrenoir or ‘beyond black’. The reflective, thickly textured paintings are brushed, scraped and divided into slick or ridged areas. Born in Aveyron, a rugged region between Toulouse and Montpellier, Soulages is celebrated there with a gallery devoted to his work.
Pierre and Colette live in the area.
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