Georges Henri Rouault (1871 – 1958)
Born in Paris to abject poverty, Georges Henri Roualt was a French Fauvist and Expressionist painter and printmaker in lithography and etching. Friends with Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin, and Charles Camoin, these relationships were what brought him to Fauvism, an art historical style, led by Henri Matisse, that was marked by bold brushstrokes and bright, vibrantly-colored paint applied directly from the tube.
From the late 19th century to the early 20th, Rouault displayed his work in major public exhibitions, notably the Salon d'Automne with his Fauvist peers, whose work was more analytical and reflective compared to his frenetic, spontaneous marks. This more emotive streak is credited to the influence of Vincent van Gogh, whose foregrounding of grotesque subjects influenced Rouault and the other Fauvusts.
Early works of Rouault could be considered acts of moral and social criticism, such as a series of paintings dedicated to courts, clowns, and prostitutes made in 1907. Later works were decidedly and perhaps uniquely religious in nature, with the Christian faith informing much of its subject matter; the passion of Christ, the face of Jesus, and the cries of women at the feet of the cross symbolized for the artist the world’s suffering, which was leavened by his belief in resurrection. These intense interests mark him as perhaps the most passionate Christian artist of the 20th century.
Rouault had his first exhibition in 1910, while in 1929 he created the designs for Diaghilev's ballet The Prodigal Son, with music by Prokofiev and choreography by Balanchine. In 1930 he also began to exhibit in foreign countries, mainly in London, New York and Chicago. In 1937 Rouault painted The Old King, arguably his very finest expressionist work depicting a King’s profile. Influenced by stained glass techniques, the canvas features thick brushstrokes and rich coloring, and an overall pessimism towards the plight of humanity at a time when World War I was devastating the continent. He died in Paris in 1958.