The French painter Pierre Soulages died on 26 October at the age of 102: Born on Christmas Eve 1919, the master of abstraction was an exceptional figure in European painting throughout his life. He was a living monument of French culture and the last remaining participant in the first documenta in 1955.

He pursued his artistic path with inimitable consistency from the very beginning: in 1946, he began to paint abstractly - but unlike other protagonists of abstraction, his art had no figurative beginnings. As early as 1948, Ottomar Domnick's large travelling exhibition "French Abstract Painting" brought him to Germany's attention for the first time, and shortly afterwards - still hardly noticed in his home country - his paintings hung in New York next to works by Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock.


Soon his oeuvre showed an increasing reduction to just one colour - the colour black, whose effect and presence he expanded and "overcame" in a surprising way, through the play of light on the picture surfaces. Soulages called this effect, which determined his work from 1979 onwards, "outrenoir" (beyond black).  

Three documenta participations from 1955 to 1964 were followed by another major "appearance" in Kassel in spring 1989: Veit Loers dedicated the retrospective "Soulages - 40 Years of Painting" to the Frenchman at the Fridericianum.

For Pierre Soulages, this retrospective was only one milestone among many: He was still painting at the age of over 100.