Born in Rodez, Aveyron, in 1919, Soulages is also known as "the painter of black," owing to his interest in the colour "both as a colour and a non-colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens a mental field all its own." He sees light as a work material; striations of the black surface of his paintings enable him to reflect light, allowing the black to come out of darkness and into brightness, thus becoming a luminous colour.
Before World War II, Soulages already had toured museums in Paris seeking his vocation and after wartime military service, he opened a studio in Paris, holding his first exhibition at the Salon des Indépendants in 1947. He also worked as a designer of stage sets.
In 1979, Pierre Soulages was made a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
A composition he created in 1959 sold for 1.200.000 euros at Sotheby's in 2006.
In 2007, the Musée Fabre of Montpellier devoted an entire room to Soulages, presenting his donation to the city. This donation includes twenty paintings dating from 1951 to 2006, among which are major works from the 1960s, two large plus-black works from the 1970s, and several large polyptychs.
A retrospective of his art was held at the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou from October 2009 to March 2010. In 2010, the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico presented a retrospective of Soulages' paintings that also included an interview-video with the painter (Spanish subtitles).
In 2014, Musée Soulages, opened in Rodez, France, Soulages' hometown. A museum dedicated to permanently displaying his works; plus temporary contemporary exhibitions, Soulages donated 500 works. Made in two separate donations, the paintings represent all stages of his work, from post-war oil paintings to his phase of work called Outrenoir. Together they have formed his most complete display of work from the first 30 years of his career.
Also in 2014 was Soulages' first American exhibition in 10 years, which was jointly hosted at Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin, New York, in which he presented 14 of his recent works.
Soulages has said, "My instrument is not black but the light reflected from the black."  Naming his own practice 'Outrenoir', (Beyond Black) the paintings he produces are known for their endless black depth, created by playing with the light reflected off of the texture of the paint. Knowing that he needed a new term to define the way that he was working, Soulages invented 'Outrenoir' to define his practice. Not having a translation into English, the closest meaning is 'beyond black.' In an interview in 2014 he explains the definition of the term, "Outrenoir doesn't exist in English; the closest is "beyond black." In French, you say "outre-Manche," "beyond the Channel," to mean England or "outre-Rhin," "beyond the Rhine," to mean Germany. In other words, "beyond black" is a different country from black." 
The infatuation Soulages has with black began long before his investigations with 'Outrenoir' at the age of 60. Initially started by his interest with the prehistoric  and his want of retreating to something more pure, primal and deliberately stripped of any other connotations, he says of his fascination with the colour, "during thousands of years, men went underground, in the absolute black of grottoes, to paint with black."  "I made these because I found that the light reflected by the black surface elicits certain emotions in me. These aren't monochromes. The fact that light can come from the colour which is supposedly the absence of light is already quite moving, and it is interesting to see how this happens." 
Applying the paint in thick layers, Soulages' painting technique includes using objects such as spoons, tiny rakes and bits of rubber to work away at the painting, often making scraping, digging or etching movements depending on whether he wants to evoke a smooth or rough surface. The texture that is then produced either absorbs or rejects light, breaking up the surface of the painting by disrupting the uniformity of the black. He often uses bold cuts in vertical and horizontal lines, the crevasses and forms created by using angles and contours. In his recent work from 2013-14 Soulages began to more explicitly vary the pigment used in the paint, mixing matt and glossy types of black as well as hardened densities of black pigment. Preferring to suspend the paintings like walls, he uses wires to hang them in the middle of the room, "I always liked paintings to be walls rather than windows. When we see a painting on a wall, it's a window, so I often put my paintings in the middle of the space to make a wall. A window looks outside, but a painting should do the opposite—it should look inside of us" 
Instead of having titles, Soulages paintings are named by their size and date of production. 17 December 1966 from 1966, in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art demonstrates the artist's boldly brushed black on white canvases. The Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), and the Tate Gallery (London) are among the public collections holding work by Pierre Soulages.
|Year||Selected Solo Exhibition||Gallery/Museum|
|2016-2017||Noir c'est noir? Les Outrenoirs de Pierre Soulages||ArtLab EPFL, Lausanne|
|2016||Pierre Soulages: Le Noir||Museum Folkwang, Essen|
|2014||Pierre Soulages: Les Outrenoir(s)||Musée Soulages, Rodez|
|2014||Inauguration of Musée Soulages, Rodez||Musée Soulages, Rodez|
|2014||Pierre Soulages||Dominique Lévy Gallery with Galerie Perrotin, New York|
|2013||Soulages Xxle Siècle||Villa Médicis, Rome; also seen in: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon|
|2010||Pierre Soulages, New Paintings||Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London|
|2009||Pierre Soulages en Son Musée||L'Expérience RCR Arquitectes, Cité de L'Architecture et Du Patrimoine, Paris|
|2009||Pierre Soulages. Einzelausstellung Zum 90. Geburtstag||Galerie Boisserée, Köln|
|2009||Rétrospective Pierre Soulages||Galerie Pacal Lansberg, Paris|
|2009||Soulages. Le Temps Du Papier||Musée D'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg|
|2009||Soulages||Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris|
|2009||Pierre Soulages. Hommage Zum 90. Geburtstag||Galerie Rieder, Munich|
|2006||Pierre Soulages, Painting the Light||Sammlung Essl, Vienna|
|2005||Pierre Soulages: Outrenoir, Recent Paintings||Robert Miller Gallery, New York|
|2003||Soulages. L'Œurve Imprimé||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris|
|2001||Pierre Soulages: Lumière Du Noir||Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; also seen in: Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow|
|2000||Soulages: 82 Peintures||Les Abattoirs, Toulouse|
|1999||Soulages, Œuvres Récentes, 1994-99||Musée Fabre, Montpellier|
|1997||Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective||Centro de Exposiciones y Congresos, Saragosse|
|1996||Pierre Soulages: Noir-Lumière||Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris; also seen in: Musée des Beaux-Arts, Monréal; Museu de Arte, Sao-Paulo|
|1993||Pierre Soulages: une rétrospective||National museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; also seen in: Fine Arts Museum, Beijing; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei|
|1992||Pierre Soulages: Polyptyques 1979-1991||Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc|
|1991||Pierre Soulages||Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna|
|1989||Pierre Soulages||Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne|
|1986||Peintures 1984-1986||FIAC, Paris; also seen in: Galerie de France, Paris|
|1982||Pierre Soulages: Œuvres Sur Papier||Galerie Ponce, Mexico City; also seen in: Oberhessisches Museum, Glessen; Galerie Ostertag, Francfort|
|1979||Pierre Soulages: Peintures Récentes||Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris|
|1975||Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective||Museu de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; also seen in: Musée Fabre, Montpellier; Salas del Patrimonio Artistico y Cultural, Madrid; Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbonne|
|1973||Pierre Soulages: Peintures 1964-1972||Palais des Beaux-Arts, Charleroi; also seen in Rädhus Gentofte, Copenhagen; nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg; S.Henie-N.Onstad Artsenter, Hovikodden|
|1968||Soulages||Musée D'Art Contemporain, Montréal, also seen in: Musée Du Québec, Québec|
|1968||Pierre Soulages: Paintings Since 1963||Knoedler Gallery, New York; also seen in: Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo|
|1967||Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective||Musée National D'Art Moderne, Paris|
|1966||Pierre Soulages||Museum of Fine Arts, Houston|
|1963||Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective||NY Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen|
|1962||Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective||Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston|
|1960||Pierre Soulages: Rétrospective||Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover; also seen in: Folkwang Museum, Essen; Gemeente Museum, The Hague; Kunsthaus, Zurich|
|1954||Pierre Soulages||Kootz Gallery, New York|
|2014||Soulages in America. (Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York)||Texts by Philippe Ungar, Harry Cooper, Sean Sweeney, Dominique Lévy|
|2011||Soulages l'oeuvre imprimé. (Bibliothèque Nationale de France/ Musée Soulages, Paris)||Edited by Pierre Encrevé, Marie-Cécile Miessner|
|2011||Pierre Soulages. (Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin/Hirmer, Munich)||Essays by Hans Belting, Yve-Alain Bois, Pierre Encrevé, Alfred Pacquement, Serge Guilbaut, Bernard de Montferrand, Alain Seban, Joachim Sartorius, Gereon Sievernich, Hans-Ulrich Obrist; edited by Pierre Encrevé, Alfred Paquement|
|2010||Verre cartons des vitraux de Conques. (Musée Fabre, Montpellier)||Essays by Pierre Soulages, Jean-Dominique Fleury, Benoît Decron|
|2010||Pierre Soulages. (Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London)||Essays by John Yau and Mel Gooding|
|2009||Soulages, le temps du papier. (Cercle d'Art, Paris/ Musée d’Art Moderne, Contemporain de Strasbourg (MAMCS), Strasbourg)||Text by Michel Ragon, Estelle Pietrzyk, Gilbert Dupuis|
|2009||SOULAGES. (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris)||Essays by Alain Seban, Alfred Pacquement, Pierre Encrevé, Serge Guilbaut, Yve-Alain Bois, Guitermie Maldonado, Annie Claustres, Harry Cooper, Hans Belting, Isabelle Ewig, Éric de Chassey, Hans Ulrich Obrist; Edited by Pierre Encrevé, Alfred Pacquement|
|2007||Pierre Soulages au Musée Fabre, Parcours d'un accrochage. (Interprint, Montpellier)||Photos by Vincent Cunillère; Essays by Georges Frêche, Michel Hilaire, Emmanuel Nebout, Laurence Javal, Olivier Brochet, Yves Larbiou, Dan McEnroe, Thierry Dieudonnat, Pierre Susini, Claude Cougnenc, Pierre Encrevé|
|2006||Pierre Soulages. Painting the light. (Sammlung Essl, Klosterneuburg-Vienna)||Essays by Karlheinz Essl, Andrea Rygg Karberg|
|2001||Soulages - Lumière du noir. (Paris-Musées, Paris)||Essays by Mikhaïl Piotrovsky, Suzanne Pagé, Albert Kosténévitch, Pierre Encrevé, JeanClaude Marcadé; Preface by Vladimir Yakovlev, Bertrand Delanoë, maire de Paris|
|1999||Pierre Soulages, Célébration de la lumière. (Skira-Le Seuil, Paris/Musée des Beaux-Arts, Berne)||Essays by Sandor Kuthy, Pierre Soulages|
|1998||Soulages, L'oeuvre complet, Peintures III, 1979-1997. (Seuil, Paris)||Text by Pierre Encrevé|
|1997||Pierre Soulages, Malerei als farbe und licht, Rétrospective 1946-1997. (Deichtorhallen, Hamburg)||Essays by Zdenek Felix, Robert Fleck, Charles Juliet|
|1996||Soulages, Noir lumière. (Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris)||Essays by Suzanne Pagé, Jean-Louis Andral, Pierre Encrevé, Robert Fleck, Donald Kuspit, William Rubin|
|1996||Soulages. (Flammarion, Paris: pp. 87–149)||Interview with the artist by Bernard Ceysson|
|1994||Pierre Soulages: une retrospective (Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei/National Museum of China, Beijing)||Essays by Huang Kuang-nan, Alfred Pacquement, Jean-Paul Réau, François Marcel Plaisant|
|1994||Les vitraux de Soulages (Seuil, Paris)||Georges Duby, Christian Heck|
|1993||Pierre Soulages: une retrospective (Musée National d'Art Contemporain, Séoul)||Essays by Young-Bang Lim, Alfred Pacquement, Bernard Prague|
|1992||Pierre Soulages, polyptyques 1979-1991 (Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou, Cajarc)||Essays by Pierre Daix, Pierre Encrevé, Claire Stoullig|
|1991||Soulages, peintures récentes (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna)||Essays by Lorand Hegyi, Alfred Pacquement|
|1990||Polyptyques (Le Louvre, Paris)||Text by Isabelle Monod-Fontaine|
|1989||Soulages: 40 jahre malerei (German ed. Museum Fridericianum, Kassel/Cantz Verlag, Stuttgart)||Text by Veit Loers, Bernard Ceysson|
|1989||Soulages: 40 ans de peinture (French ed. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes)||Essays by Henry-Claude Cousseau, Veit Loers|
|1989||Soulages: 40 anos de pintura (Spanish ed. Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia)||Essays by Bernard Ceysson, Veit Loers|
|1987||Nous avons visité le Musée d'Orsay avec Pierre Soulages (L'Evénement du Jeudi, Paris: pp. 82–84)||Interview with the artist by Jean-Louis Pradel|
|1987||Pierre Soulages (Musée Saint-Pierre Art Contemporain, Lyon/Hans Thoma-Gesellschaft, Reutlingen)||Essays by Georges Duby, Pierre Encrevé, Henri Meschonnic, Werner Meyer, Thierry Raspail, Clément Rosset|
|1984||Soulages (Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo)||Essays by Taka Ashido Okada, d'Alfred Pacquement|
|1980||Soulages, peintures récentes (Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris/Musée du Parc de la Boverie, Liège)||Essays by Pontus Hulten, Alfred Pacquement|
|1976||Soulages (Musée d'Art et d'Industrie, Saint-Etienne: p. 5-32, 42)||Interview with the artist by Bernard Ceysson|
|1975||L'aventure de l'art moderne (1): Pierre Soulages (Galerie Jardin des Arts, Paris: September, p. 150)||Interview with the artist by André Parinaud|
|1974||Soulages, peintures, gravures (1st ed. Musée Dynamique, Dakar/Fundaçào Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon)||Text by Léopold Sédar Senghor|
Honours and awards
- Grand Prix for Painting (Paris, 1975)
- Rembrandt Award (Germany, 1976)
- Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1979)
- Grand prix national de peinture (France, 1986)
- Praemium Imperiale for painting (Japan, 1994)
- Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (2005)
- Prix Julio González (Valencia, 2006)
- La Légion d'honneur (Paris, 2015)
- Hugh Schofield (24 June 2014). "The president and the 'greatest living artist' in the world". BBC News. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "Soulages - Pierre Soulages et les vitraux de l'abbatiale de Conques - Ina.fr". Soulages. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
- Artnet, "Pierre Soulages" Retrieved June 2016
-  The Museum, Musée Soulages, Retrieved June 2016
- Musée Soulages, Rodez  Works, A Closer Look, Painting, 324 X 362 cm, 1986 (Polyptyque I) Retrieved July 2016
-  Interview Magazine, Pierre Soulages, Zoe Stillpass, 5 August 2014, Retrieved July 2016
-  Artnet, Pierre Soulages, Happy to Stay in the Dark, Ben Davis, 19 June 2014, Retrieved July 2016
- Jean-Max Albert, Pierre Soulages, Mouvement sans emplacement, Opus International, n°57, 1975.
-  The Telegraph (online) Black is the new black for Pierre Soulages, France's best known living artist, Claire Rosemberg, 14 October 2009, Retrieved July 2016
-  Hyperallergic (online), Pierre Soulages: Painter of Black and Light, Robert C. Morgan, 14 May 2014, Retrieved July 2016
- Honolulu Museum of Art, wall label, 17 December 1966, accession 4400.1
- "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1712. Retrieved 23 November 2012.