Pierre Soulages was born in 1919 in Rodez, France. In 1938, he trained as a drawing teacher in Paris. He was accepted to the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts but left shortly after seeing exhibitions of Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. Drafted in 1940, he was conscripted to Germany under France's compulsory national service in 1942 but escaped the service by using false papers. He instead went underground and worked as a winegrower, eventually meeting Sonia Delauney, which sparked his interest in abstract art. He settled back in Paris in 1946. In 1979, after three decades as an internationally successful artist, Soulages embarked on a new type of painting. Having always been interested in light, he began to make paintings which were totally black. These new works formed his Outrenoir, or 'beyond black' paintings. With contrasting areas of matt and gloss paint and ridges and gashes across their surface, these paintings draw focus on light's reflection; they change based on the light conditions and the viewers' position relative to the painting. In 2001, Soulages became the first living painter to exhibit at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. More recently, in 2009, the artist was honoured by having a painting exhibited in the Louvre and a major retrospective of his work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The Musée Soulages de Rodez opened in May 2014 in the artist's birthplace.