Georges Rouault, 1871-1898, Paris. Vase De Fleurs is oil on canvas, 36cm H by 23cm W (14 2.5/8" by 9 1/8") It is signed LR G Rouault and signed verso plus test colors of paint in strips. His father was a cabinet-maker in a piano factory. His paternal grandfather was a lover of art, an admirer of Manet and Daumier, who hoped the child would become a painter. When Rouault was a teenager he was apprenticed to a stained glass maker. This early contact with stained glass influenced immensely his later career as painter and printmaker. At the same time he attended evening classes at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, and studied painting at the Louvre. He entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts under Elie Delaunay, who died soon after. He became the favorite pupil and a close friend of Gustave Moreau.
Moreau died in 1898 and the same year Rouault's parents left France to be with their daughter in Algeria whose husband had just died. Rouault was named Director of the new Musee Gustave Moreau. He turned to painting landscapes; he had a period of bad health which he spent in Evian. Rouault always saw himself as an artisan, an anonymous laborer making devotional images. He used black outline to reinforce the brilliancy of color and expressive gesture in the manner of mosaics or medieval miniatures. He drew freely from various sources in order to give conventual overtones to his modern statement of human dilemma. His preoccupation over the years with the plight of prostitutes, tragicomic clowns and biblical martyrs, who as outcasts from society, suffer the burden of insoluble ethical demands, reflects the existential dread of despair he, as an artist, suffered himself.
In 1891 he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where with Matisse, he was a pupil of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, a brilliant and sympathetic teacher. Rouault was Moreau’s favorite student and he became the first curator of the Musée Moreau which opened in Paris in 1903. In 1902 Rouault helped to found the Salon d’Automne, an independant exhibition for those artists rejected by the official Paris Salon, where he showed alongside the Fauves.
Although Rouault associated with Matisse and the Fauves, he did not adopt their brilliant colors or their typical subjects; instead he painted characters such as clowns, acrobats, dancers, outcasts and judges in jewel-like colors outlined in thick black lines reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh. His sympathies were for the poor and downtrodden, and he commented that his imagination was stimulated by "the contrast between brilliant, scintillating things intended to amuse and this infinitely sad life." In 1894 he was awarded the first prize at the Concours Chenavard and, in 1910, Rouault would have his first one man show at Galerie Drouet in Paris. Rouault married Marthe le Sidaner, the sister of Impressionist painter Henri Le Sidaner, in 1908—they would have four children.
Rouault’s achieved financial success after Ambroise Vollard became his art dealer-publisher in 1917 and he gained an international reputation through the 1930s. In 1937 he had his first American one-man show at Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City and in 1938 the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibition of his graphic prints. Rouault adeptly worked in the various printmaking techniques of woodcuts, lithographs and etchings, often for book illustrations commissioned by Vollard.
From the 1930s and on Rouault, a staunch Catholic, devoted himself almost exclusively to religious themes in his art interpreting the works in an almost icon-like austerity with intensively bright colors reminiscent of medieval stained glass windows. He believed in the teaching of the Gospel and stated that his “only ambition is to be able to paint a Christ so moving that those who see Him will be converted.”
Rouault spent the last decade of his life working to achieve the high standard of perfection he had set for himself. After the sudden death of his dealer Vollard in 1939, Rouault eventually gained back some 400+ paintings from the estate, of which, he destroyed 315. Georges Rouault died on February 13, 1958 at the age of 87. He received the national honor of a state funeral.
In 1908, Rouault married Martha Le Sidoner. They had four children. Rouault exhibited with the Fauves, though he was never closely associated with that movement. His work from then until the end of his life was concerned with printmaking, designing costumes and scenery, illustrating books, etc.