Straight as an “i”, belying his 94 years of civil age, the tall silhouette of Pierre Soulages, eternally dressed in black, passes from room to room. The artist supervises, with Colette, his wife and lifelong collaborator, the final hangings of his works, a few days before the opening of the new Rodez museum, the Soulages museum. “It bears my name, but it is not my museum,” this native of the Aveyron prefecture, where he lived until his baccalaureate, would like to point out, taking a break. I only accepted on the condition that a space of 500 square meters be provided, within the museum, for exhibitions by other creators. I have always been wary of artists’ museums, where everyone rushes for three years, and then they fall into oblivion. Here, it’s different…”, adds the inventor of “outrenoir”. This thick black paste spread in layers on the canvas, and worked meticulously with tools and artisan gestures, so that it lights up differently depending on the incidence of light and where it is located.
Early works never exhibited
In any case, the Rodez museum was entirely designed and built around the work of the master. He and his wife first made a large donation to the town in 2005, supplemented by a second, in 2012. 500 works! Among these are his youthful paintings, never exhibited, where his attraction to the earth and austerity shines through. That of Aubrac, but also all the surviving boxes of its famous stained glass windows, created between 1986 and 1994 for the Sainte-Foy abbey church in Conques (Aveyron). Without forgetting all of his work on paper: prints, lithographs, or screen prints, accompanied by the matrices which were used to create them. >>> Also read our report “24 hours with the monks of Sainte-Foy de Conques” <<< To preserve and highlight such a treasure, a Spanish architectural agency, RCR Arquitectes, imagined a setting in the form of large “boxes”, as if suspended above the hillside on the edge of the Foirail, the most prestigious of Rodez. The structure is clad in Corten steel. In the air, this material is covered with a rust-colored crust, evoking that of the first series of abstract paintings by Pierre Soulages, produced in the post-war period with walnut hulls. Launched in 2004 by the Greater Rodez urban community, this project has experienced many twists and turns linked to political life in Aveyron, but also to its cost: €24.46 million in the end. But today, the new museum seems to be unanimously appreciated. It was inside the Sainte-Foy abbey church in Conques that I felt my first aesthetic emotion. Is it a return to the country, for this artist recognized throughout the world, and based for years in Sète, in Hérault? Let’s listen to him: “The origins of my work come as much from Rodez as from my discovery of art when I was a child. It was inside the Sainte-Foy abbey church in Conques that I felt my first aesthetic emotion. It was during a school trip, I must have been twelve or thirteen years old. I was struck by the beauty of this novelistic masterpiece. That’s where I decided to become a painter. Years later, when I was asked to recreate his stained glass windows, I felt great happiness,” confides this son of a horse carriage coachbuilder, who died early. The faith ? ” No. A mixture of emotions and thoughts. »