Georges Rouault Biography

Georges Rouault




Georges Rouault was born in Paris on May 27, 1871 and is arguably one of the earliest and most innovative Expressionists. While many of his contemporaries were breaking away from tradition in their subject matter, Rouault's images retained a traditional religious concentration, but his use of experimental techniques- executed to portray an emotion as opposed to a pleasing line- broke the classical mold. The stamp of his artistic influence is shown quite vividly in the Miserere cycle. His search for absolute values had its counterpoint in his highly individual graphic techniques (Wolfsy, page 6), and his graphic work covered as many of these as it did subjects. He utilized heliogravure combined with aquatint, etching, drypoint and roulette to achieve the heavy, graphic images he used in his painting, many of his plates went through 15 re-workings before they were printed.

Rouault's artistic background began with an apprenticeship as a glass painter and restorer, and in his work we see the quality of the luminescence he had become familiar with, in the bold lines and painterly glow of the tonal areas. From 1891 - 1898 he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Elie Delauney and Gustave Moreau. With encouragement from Moreau he entered his work in competitions, winning various smaller prizes for his art and soon sending pieces to be shown at the Salon de Artistes Francais. But it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that he began to define his own style of expression. Unfortunately, both World Wars and an uncertain political climate delayed the publishing of his prints from one cycle to another; therefore, his notoriety came slowly, and he struggled financially for most of his career. Despite this, his inspiration, drawn from his deep spiritual background and his quiet observation of the world at war with itself, kept him working almost constantly.

Near the end of his life, despite an onslaught of admiration by the public and honors given by the French state, Rouault inexplicably burned nearly 300 of his works. He died on February 13, 1958 in Paris, at the age of 87.