Georges Rouault

Georges Henri Rouault (27 May 1871 – 13 February 1958) was a French Fauvist and Expressionist painter.

Childhood and education
Rouault was born in Paris into a poor family. His mother taught him to love arts. At the age of 14, in 1885, Rouault embarked on an apprenticeship as a glass painter and restorer, which finished in 1890. According to some critics, his apprenticeship as a glass painter impressed on him some peculiarities, such as his typical black contouring or the expressionist fashion of mixing colours. At the same time he attended evening classes at the School of Fine Arts. In 1891 he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the official art school of France, where he was taught by Gustave Moreau and became his favorite student up to the point that when Moreau died in 1898 he was nominated the curator of the Moreau Museum in Paris.

Rouault's symbolism in the use of his colours for his first works was probably due to Moreau's influence.

Early works
Rouault also met Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Henri Charles Manguin, and Charles Camoin. These friendships brought him to the movement of Fauvism, the leader of which was considered to be Matisse.

From 1895 on, he took part in major public exhibitions, notably the Salon d’Automne, where paintings with religious subjects, landscapes and still lifes were shown. In 1905 he exhibited his paintings at the Salon d’Automne with the other Fauvists. While Matisse represented the reflective and rationalized aspects in the group, Rouault embodied a more spontaneous and instinctive style.

His use of stark contrasts and emotionality is credited to the influence of Vincent van Gogh. His characterizations of overemphasized grotesque personalities inspired the expressionist painters.

Expressionist works
In 1907, Rouault commenced a series of paintings dedicated to courts, clowns and prostitutes. These paintings are interpreted as moral and social criticism. He became attracted to spiritualism and the drammatic existentialism of the philosopher Jacques Maritain, who remained a close friend for the rest of his life. After that, he dedicated himself to religious subjects. Human nature was always the focus of his interest. Rouault said: "A tree against the sky possesses the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human."

In 1910, Rouault had his first works exhibited in the Druet Gallery. His works were studied by German artists from Dresden, who later formed the nucleus of expressionism.

From 1917, Rouault dedicated himself to printing. He searched for inspiration in religious subjects: first of all, in the theme of the passion of Christ. The face of Jesus and the cries of the women at the feet of the cross are symbols of the pain of the world, relieved by the belief in resurrection.

In 1930 he also began to exhibit in foreign countries, mainly in London, New York and Chicago.

He exhibited his cycle Misery in 1948.

At the end of his life he burned 300 of his pictures (estimated to be worth today about more than half a billion francs). Rouault died in Paris in 1958.