As a young artist, Soulages became interested in Roman art and prehistory. In 1946, he devoted himself to painting. Early on, his paintings were noticed for being different from the very colourful post-war painting. Black occupies a predominant place. Although he claims not to belong to any particular school of artists, his painting shows ties with the work of Hartung, Rothko, Kooning, Kline and Stella. Pierre Soulages is part of the generation of post-war abstract painters. He used a diverse range of organic matter like tar, lamp black and ivory black, as used in prehistoric art and the first charcoal drawings made in the darkness of caves. Pierre Soulages’ painting is a dialogue with the painting itself.
From the early 1950s, his painting was recognised and bought by the most prestigious institutions. More than 150 of his paintings are on display in collections of modern art in museums around the world. His first retrospective was presented at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, West Germany; Gemeente Museum, The Hague; and Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich (1960–61), and his most recent took place at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2009-10). In 2001 Soulages was the first living artist to exhibit at the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. He lives and works in Paris.