Sunday, 27 May 2012


“What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” - Eugène Delacroix
It is the anniversary of Georges Roualt’s birthday today, so Art Sunday is dedicated to this highly original and unconventional French artist. Georges Henri Rouault was born in Paris on May 27, 1871. His first introduction to art took place within his family, as his grandfather was an art collector and his father was an artisan. After an apprenticeship as a glass painter Georges Rouault studied under Gustave Moreau at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1891 - 1898.

At first Rouault studied under Elie Delauney until his early death and then under Gustave Moreau, with whom he had a close connection. After Moreau’s death in 1898 Rouault was appointed curator of the Musée Moreau in 1903, in which he maintained the memory of his teacher’s work. 
Rouault’s early work was influenced by his teacher as well as by the artist’s fascination for medieval art. Both never ceased to have a great influence on Roualt. From around 1902 the artist created watercolours and gouaches in expressive colours, which founded his reputation as a Fauvist painter.

Early subjects, such as workers and farmers reflect the artist’s philosophical leanings and his strong social engagement. Encouraged by his art dealer Ambroise Vollard, he concentrated on graphic art between 1917 and 1927. One of the most famous series of this period is the extensive cycle “Miserere” which was finished in 1927 and published in 1948. Towards the end of the 1920s Rouault discovered impasto painting, a technique in which paint is applied in thick textured layers, which is so typical of the painter.

He now concentrated nearly exclusively on religious subjects, which he interpreted in an icon-like austerity, with intensively brilliant colours reminiscent of medieval stained glass windows. Rouault’s artistic oeuvre was much acclaimed from an early date. In 1894, for example, he was awarded the first prize at the Concours Chenavard, but his work also often gave rise to controversy due to his unorthodox style. His first one-man exhibition took place at the Galerie Drouet in 1910. Large retrospective exhibitions followed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1945 and at the Kunsthaus Zurich in 1948. 
Georges Rouault died at the age of 87 in Paris on February 13, 1958.

The painting illustrated is his 1928 “Les Trois Clowns”, which exemplifies his style admirably. The resemblance to stained glass is evident, with the strong blocks of colour, the heavy black outlines suggestive of the leading and the highly figurative style typical of the great medieval cathedral windows. Even if the title suggests the circus, there is an almost religious tone int his work, which could well be used to illustrate a biblical passage.


  1. a very expressive piece
    i love the bold lines

  2. Wasn't Vollard amazing? I loved his connection with great art buying patrons (Barnes, Stein etc), his art history publications and especially his support for developing artists. I loved the Fauves but didn't realise Vollard's importance to Roualt in particular. Thanks.