Employing rich, intense color to depict portraits, landscapes and still lifes, the French painter and draughtsman, Georges Henri Rouault, is remembered for portraying the naked reality of mankind with the violence of drawing and color, the dynamism of the line and insistent brush strokes to create allegories of debauchery, misery, vice and indifference.
Famous as the most passionate artist of the 20th century, Rouault was born in Paris on May 27, 1871. He was given a carefully planned education and at the age of fourteen he became an apprentice in the workshop of a stained-glass manufacturer. From 1891 to 1898, Rouault studied under Gustave Moreau at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
In the beginning Rouault studied under Elie Delaunay, until his early death, and then under Gustave Moreau, with whom he had a close connection. After Moreau’s death in 1898, Rouault was appointed curator of the Musée Moreau in 1903, in which he maintained the memory of his teacher’s work.
Rouault’s early work was influenced by his teacher as well as by his fascination for medieval art. Both had greatly influenced the artist's work. From around 1902, Rouault made watercolors and gouaches in expressive colors, which founded his reputation as a Fauvist painter. He also worked on subjects such as workers and farmers, which reflect his strong moral engagement.
Encouraged by his art dealer Ambroise Vollard, Rouault concentrated on graphic art between 1917 and 1927. One of the most famous series of this period is the extensive cycle “Miserere”, which was finished in 1927 and published in 1948.
Towards the end of the 1920s, Rouault discovered impasto painting, a technique in which paint is applied in thick, pastose layers, which is so typical of the painter. During this period he concentrated exclusively on religious subjects, which he interpreted in an icon-like austerity, with intensively brilliant colors reminiscent of medieval stained glass windows.
Rouault’s artistic oeuvre was much acclaimed from an early date. In 1894, he was awarded the first prize at the Concours Chenavard, but he was also often contested due to his unorthodox style. In 1910, his first one-man exhibition took place at the Galerie Drouet. Two large retrospectives exhibitions followed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1945 and at the Kunsthaus Zurich in 1948.
Rouault died in Paris on February 13, 1958, at the age of 86.