Georges Rouault

Born 1871. Died 1958.

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Georges Rouault Biography

Any discussion of the Fauves includes Georges Rouault, whose most well known works were exhibited alongside Matisse and others in the famed 1905 Salon d'Automne in Paris, where their Fauve paintings infamously scandalized critics with their bold use of color. Rouault was fervently religious, and the Fauvist and Expressionist qualities in his works touch upon contemporary considerations of mysticism and spiritualism. Rouault was among the founding members of the 1903 Salon d’Automne, but never officially worked alongside contemporary movements, synthesizing instead, the experiments with form and color of his painter colleagues of the period. Rouault was hesitant to accept the social – and according to him, moral – changes in Western European cities initiated by industrialization. He turned instead to biblical scenes, Christ-like figures and religious symbolism, but his painterly approach to such figures was deeply imbedded in the Fauvist and Expressionist palettes, with heavy impasto, stark contrasts and glowing jewel tones.

Born in 1871 in Paris, he studied at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs and later the École des Beaux Arts under his mentor Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. His works from World War I onward became increasingly religious and moralistic, presenting exalted Christ figures in addition to exaggerated, grotesque, almost caricatured portraits of clowns, prostitutes, and masked figures that vacillate between victim and threat. Before his death in 1958, he burned 300 of his paintings – drastically reducing his works that are available to collectors – explaining that he simply would not live to finish them. The French government organized a state funeral for his burial. Rouault’s works can be found at Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; the Tate Britain, London; and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. The Museum of Modern Art in New York organized two retrospectives of his career prior to his death, in 1945 and 1953.

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Artist Image: Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet