Executed in 1904, Le Vieux clown is an emblematic icon which Rouault repeated continuously throughout his career. Clowns were, according to Lionello Venturi, "the dream of Rouault's life." These nomadic entertainers represented freedom and naiveté, and were for Rouault a release from his focus on prostitutes and other darker images of life. The clown was a craftsman practicing an art uncomplicated by the problems of the day. Venturi continues, "When he paints clowns, however, the grotesque becomes amiable, even lovable. . . colors grow rich and resplendent, almost as if the artist, laying aside his crusader's arms for a moment, were relaxing in the light of the sun and letting it flood into his work" (Lionello Venturi, Rouault, Lausanne, 1959, pp. 21 and 51).
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