Georges Henri Rouault
(French, 1871–1958) was an Expressionist painter, although he is also associated with the French Fauvists of his era. He was born in a Belleville cellar, at a time when French troops bombed the Paris neighborhood in an effort to stop the Paris Commune government. The artist left home at the age of 14, and was apprenticed to a stained-glass artist.
Rouault attended the Ecole des Beaux-Art and eventually would study under the symbolic artist, Gustave Moreau
(French, 1826–1898). Rouault was a favorite pupil, and a special bond formed between the teacher and student. Rouault garnered some prestige by winning the Prix Chenavard with his religious-themed painting, L’Enfant Jésus parmi les docteurs
. The artist was influenced by his writer friends, J. K. Huysmans and Leon Bloy, intellectuals who argued against the artwork that was officially approved by the Catholic Church. Rouault believed that the ultimate purpose of art was personal expression, and that it did not always have to depict subjects exactly as they appeared in reality. The artist also followed the philosophical teachings of his friend Jacques Maritain.
Rouault experienced difficulty in dealing with Moreau's death in 1898. After four years of despair, he travelled to Evian in 1902, in an effort to improve his poor health and state of mind. He then returned to Paris and came across the works of Léon Bloy in Moreau's library, which became his inspiration for a series of paintings. The artist married Marthe Le Sidaner in 1908, and the couple had four children.
Influenced by events at the Tribunal de la Seine, the painter produced the Les Juges
series and the Les Tribunaux
series. Rouault's pieces reflected humans
, with all their perceived flaws, as men without masks. Although he exhibited at the 1900 Centennial Exhibition of French art, the first gallery exhibition for his work was held at the Druet Gallery in 1910. The artist began work on his collection of etchings and lithographs
, Le Miserere De Georges Rouault
, in 1912. This work would be exhibited in 1948. Much of Rouault's work was completed after Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard purchased the artist's entire gallery and future works. Books printed during this time include Les Fleurs du Mal
, Cirque de l'Étoile Filante
, and Les Réincarnations du Père Ubu
. There were many retrospectives held during the last decade of Rouault's life, including those at Palais des Beaux-Arts and Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, Stedlijk Museum in Amsterdam, Cleveland Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Bologna. France gave Rouault a state funeral when he died in 1958.