May 27, 1871. Georges Henri Rouault (French: 27 May 1871 - 13 February 1958) was a French painter, draughtsman, and printer, whose work is often associated with Fauvism and Expressionism. In this image: Georges Rouault, 1905, Jeu de massacre (Slaughter), (Forains, Cabotins, Pitres), (La noce à Nini patte en l'air), watercolor, gouache, India ink and pastel on paper, 53 x 67 cm, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
|The Dwarf. Art Institute of Chicago|
At one time Rouault’s reputation rivaled Matisse’s, and his clowns and prostitutes were as ubiquitously reproduced as Ben Shahn posters. He had retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in 1945 and 1953; when he died in 1958, at 87, the French government organized a state funeral.
Then he slipped down the memory chute. The French expression “jolie-laide,” applied to women whose beauty is of the unconventional sort, applies to Rouault too, which half explains his vanishing. He’s an acquired taste.
"He was born in 1871, a child of the Paris Commune, the son of an artisan who built pianos. His grandfather, a postal worker and art collector, introduced him to pictures by Courbet. He apprenticed as a teenager to glaziers and never denied the obvious connection between the thick black outlines in his paintings and the leaded church windows of medieval stained glass that he helped to restore. Those outlines flattened and broke up his work into fissures and shards of glowing color (deep purples, reds and blues) against a generally gloomy background."
"This became his signature mode. The technique was partly a response to Cubism — a strategy for looking abstract, fracturing space and fudging three dimensions, which he never mastered — at the same time that it stressed frontality, gesture and light. You can see in the show, which consists mostly of minor works but has a few very good pictures, the luminosity of his palette and the awkward elegance of his line. He was the classic beefy-handed butcher who’s incredibly deft with a knife."
"His own phrase was “outrageous lyricism.” With his early, dashing brush marks, he created the appearance of spontaneity — which was partly a lie, since he repeated the same images and emotions over and over — but which gave his work its appearance of raw, expressive energy, akin in fervor to that of German Expressionists like George Grosz or Max Beckmann."
"He said he saw his role as “the silent friend of those who labor in the barren field, the ivy of eternal misery climbing the leprous wall behind which rebellious humanity hides its virtues and its vice.” His subjects were mostly misfits and vagabonds, and his natural forebears in social commentary were Goya and Daumier. He believed in the impieties of modern art as the most effective language of the day, yet was also deeply spiritual and revered the radical Catholic writer Léon Bloy, who recognized the inherent contradiction in Rouault’s position and didn’t much like his work."
|The Old King. Carnegie Museum|
"... Rouault was never chic: he was too moral, too religious, too tender, too popular. But at his best he was touchingly strange, and a model of integrity."
Continue reading the main story (NY Times)