Georges Rouault

1871-1958. French painter. Born in Paris, he helped for a time on the restoration of the stained glass windows in Chartres Cathedral. He never worked from the Renaissance ideal of pleasing proportion, but reached back, in a fully modern artist's way, to a medieval awareness of suffering, death, and painterly decoration. His apprenticeship in stained glass carried over into his studies of prostitutes, judges, and clowns, where glowing colors of hopeful rage are closed in black- bordered compartments so that the ugliness of sin, the brutality of corruption, the bitterness of human misery come through firmly with a horrified and compassionate understanding. Rouault's black India ink drawings begun around World War I made into prints, Miserere (et Guerre), are a moving series of black and white penitential tears at the ruinousness of war and human inhumanity; the stark, controlled sprawl of lines have a Hebraic roughness, solitary grief muted by dignity. Many of his Christ figures have a mustard-olive, pasty, or bloodied character; but later in life red, green, and yellow friendlier colors come gently and serenely more to the fore, as in the joyous, smiling Sarah (1956), an earnest of the resurrection. But there is always something Jansenist* about Rouault, both sensuous and austere, disquieting and soaring, earthy and mystical together, kindred in spirit to the music of his French compatriot Oliver Messiaen.