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Georges Rouault brought deeply religious themes to the modern art movement

May 27, On This Day


Often associated with Fauvism and Expressionism, French painter, draughtsman and print artist Georges Henri Rouault was born in Paris on May 27, 1871.

It is said that his mother encouraged his love for the arts. As a 14-year-old Rouault began an apprenticeship as a glass painter and restorer — and many believe this early experience is a likely source of the heavy black contouring and glowing colours, likened to leaded glass, which characterize his mature painting style.

Later, while studying at the École des Beaux-Arts (the official art school of France), Rouault was apparently a favourite student of Symbolist pioneer Gustave Moreau.

As her began his career, his associations with art names like Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Henri Manguin, and Charles Camoin brought him into the fold of Fauvism (a style of painting with vivid expressionistic and non-naturalistic use of colour, spearheaded by Matisse).

Rouault’s works, it is said, embodied a more spontaneous and instinctive style. His use of stark contrasts and emotionality is credited to the influence of Vincent van Gogh.

As the 1900s progressed, Rouault bent towards moral and social criticism in his paintings, showcasing subjects dedicated to courts, clowns and prostitutes, in whose depiction his brush was not too kind.

But then, later in life he focused most on not just human nature but religious subjects. Wikipedia informs: “The Christian faith informed his work in his search for inspiration and marks him out as perhaps the most passionate Christian artist of the 20th century”.


Stained glass (his first love) is often associated with religious spaces, especially cathedrals. Perhaps it was this connection that drew him to Roman Catholicism after going through a tough time in his life.

His Expressionist works of the time are widely recalled.

Tragically, towards his last days, Rouault burned some 300 of his pictures (estimated to be worth over half a billion francs today), for no profound reason, other than the fact that he simply felt he would not live to finish them. Rouault died in Paris on February 13, 1958, at the age of 86.


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