A painting by Pierre Soulages that belonged to the poet, academician and former president of Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor was sold for nearly 1.5 million euros, auction costs included, on Saturday 23 January in Caen.
The work was acquired by a “European buyer” who bid by telephone, according to Caen Enchères, who did not wish to give more details. There were seven bidders, six of them by phone, but no museum was in the running.
“It’s a very good price for a painting of this size”, underlined Caen Enchères. Offered for sale at a starting price of 600,000 euros, the work was estimated “From 800,000 to one million euros”, according to the auction house.
Characteristic of his style in the 1950s
Entitled “Painting 81 × 60 cm, December 3, 1956 ‘, it had been acquired by Léopold Sédar Senghor that year, during a visit to the artist’s studio in Paris, recalls Caen Enchères.
The legatee of the work, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a friend of the sister of the wife of the poet who died in 2001. Disappeared in turn in 2019, Colette Senghor bequeathed the painting to her sister who died a year later.
Long hung in the office of Léopold Sédar Senghor in Verson, near Caen, where the couple lived from the 1980s, the work is characteristic of the painter’s work in the 1950s, with its interplay of glazes, transparencies and of overlays. A style that precedes the outrenoir, this dark universe imagined by Soulages in 1979.
“A blow that made me waver”
The former Senegalese president was a fervent admirer of the painter, now 101 years old. “The first time I saw a painting by Soulages, it was a shock”, Senghor told in 1958 in New Letters : “I received a blow in the pit of my stomach that made me wobble, like the boxer who was hit and suddenly collapsed. This is exactly the impression I had when I first saw the dan mask. “
This long-term admiration culminated in 1974 with the organization of an exhibition at the Dynamic Museum in Dakar. The institution, built eight years earlier, was intended to show both classical African art and international modern art – Chagall and Picasso preceded Soulages. During the inauguration, where he is the precise exegete of his work, Senghor praises “The highest expression of pure painting”, which he hopes will serve as a model for young Senegalese painters.