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« Substance and Form in Worship | Main | The Canine Prisoner »

May 30, 2007

Rediscovering Rouault

Misere1_2I was delighted to see the New York Times highlighting the work of the painter Georges Rouault in the Arts section. As writer Michael Kimmelman notes:

You wouldn’t call it a full-fledged revival, but Georges Rouault is back in our sights. A few months ago some of his work was at the Metropolitan Museum in a show about his wily dealer, Ambroise Vollard. Now a couple of dozen pictures are at Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

At one time Rouault’s reputation rivaled Matisse’s, and his clowns and prostitutes were as ubiquitously reproduced as Ben Shahn posters. He had retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in 1945 and 1953; when he died in 1958, at 87, the French government organized a state funeral.Misere2

Then he slipped down the memory chute.

Rouault's work is an underappreciated treasure. As the Times mentions, "Rouault was never chic: he was too moral, too religious, too tender, too popular. But at his best he was touchingly strange, and a model of integrity."

I am especially drawn to Rouault's works depicting Christ. Unlike some so-called Christian art which focuses on the idealistic, Rouault's work thrusts the suffering that is also part and parcel of the Christian life before the audience. His strong use of lines, influenced by apprenticeship under glaziers and the medeival stained glass windows that heMisere3 helped renovate, gives a harsh and sometimes stark quality to his works. If you're not familiar, take a little time to explore his series of paintings entitled Misere. There were 58 completed in 1927 alone. Many agree this is one of the most important print series of the 20th century. I'll add a few of his images from the Misere series here.

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