Born in Paris in 1871, George Rouault was first introduced to art by his grandfather, who collected Courbet. As a teenager, Rouault apprenticed as a glass painter. This experience along with his fascination with the medieval church guided his style towards heavy lines and piercing color, evocative of stained glass.
Throughout his career, Rouault developed his deeply personal style. The flat, fractured subjects evoke religious iconography. Like Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec before him, Rouault became fascinated by performers. Clowns held special importance. George Rouault felt that they suffered so that the audience could forget their own troubles. He found tragedy within the comedy. This idea inspired Georges Rouault to paint clowns as a modern day Christ figure.
Rouault later found this kind of nobility in other subjects such as prostitutes and day laborers. He was interested in exploring this idea of suffering for the sake of someone else. Each subject was weary, vulnerable, and deeply human. Coupled with his unique style, these works give the impression that they belong in allegorical cathedral art.
Vollard, an esteemed art dealer and agent, became interested in George Rouault and purchased his entire studio in 1913. Vollard became Rouault’s exclusive agent and provided for finical security. With this new stability, George Rouault was able to further explore new methods and produce more consistent work.
George Rouault’s works overall can be identified by their thoughtfulness and almost private nature. Religious, but never preaching or judgmental, Rouault presents cycles of hardships and salvations.