| Rouault, Georges Biography
French artist, an early exponent of fauvism and expressionism, known for his somber portraits of sorrowful kings and clowns and for his images of Christ.
Born in Paris, Georges Rouault was apprenticed to a maker of stained glass. He then attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied with the painter Gustave Moreau. In 1898 he was appointed curator of the newly established Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris. After imitating Moreau, Georges Rouault went on to develop his own distinctive oil painting style, characterized by clear and glowing reds, blues, and greens; use of impasto (thickly applied pigment); and heavy black outline suggestive of the leading in stained-glass windows. In 1905 he exhibited with the fauves.
Georges Rouault's artistic evolution was accompanied by a religious one, for he had become, about 1895, an ardent Roman Catholic. He became a friend of the Catholic intellectuals Joris-Karl Huysmans and Leon Bloy. Through another friend, a deputy public prosecutor, he began to frequent, as had Daumier, the Paris law courts, where he had a close view of humanity apparently fallen from the grace of God. His favourite subjects became prostitutes, tragic clowns, and pitiless judges. His choice of such themes as the Passion of Christ, corrupt judges, and prostitutes reflects his devout Roman Catholicism. His major artworks include Three Judges (1913) and Christ Mocked by Soldiers (1932, Museum of Modern Art, New York City); The Old King (1916-1936, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania); and Head of a Clown (1940-1948, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
During and after World War II, he painted an impressive collection of clowns, most of them virtual self-portraits. He also executed some still lifes with flowers; these are exceptional, for three-quarters of his lifetime output is devoted to the human figure. In 1947 he sued the heirs of Vollard to recover a large number of artworks left in their possession after the death of the art dealer in 1939. Winning the suit, he established the right of an artist to things never offered for sale, and afterward he publicly burned 315 canvases that he felt were not representative of his best work. During the last 10 years of his life, he renewed his palette, adding greens and yellows, and painted somealmost mystical landscapes.
Among the major artists of the 20th-century school of Paris, Rouault was an isolated figure in at least two respects: he practiced Expressionism, a style that has never found much favour in France, and he was chiefly a religious painter-one of the most convincing in recent centuries.
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