Born in Rodez, a small city in the south of France, Soulages, essentially a self-taught artist, was first inspired by the prehistoric and Romanesque art of his region. He took up painting seriously when he moved to Paris in 1946, having been introduced to abstract art some time earlier by Sonia Delaunay. The following year, he made his first non-figurative works, with black, or its near equivalent, as an essential element.
This painting provides a striking contrast between black patterns reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy and the controlled treatment of the lighter background. Typical of the artist’s production during the mid-1950s, the artist would reduce his palette even more in subsequent years, banishing all colours except black. Soulages believed that the more limited the means, the stronger the expression.