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Christ in profile, 1930 Georges Rouault.

I was wonderfully surprised on my first visit to the Cincinnati Art Museum to see a very large collection of paintings by my favorite painter Georges Rouault.

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Georges Rouault, Still life with flowers, 1939

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Georges Rouault,The injured clown, 1932

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Georges Rouault, The Clown, 1918-22

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Georges Rouault, Nocturne, 1939

Rouault’s early style was academic. But around 1898 he went through a psychological crisis, and, subsequently, partly under the influence of Post-Impressionist artists: Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne, he evolved in a direction that placed him as, a fellow traveller of the Fauves (Wild Beasts), who favored the use of strong color like blues, dramatic lighting, emphatic forms, and an expressive scribble.

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Georges Rouault, Detail of Nocturne, 1939

Rouault’s artistic evolution was accompanied by a religious one, for he had become an ardent Roman Catholic.  He began to frequent, as had Daumier, the Paris law courts, where he had a close view of humanity apparently fallen from the grace of God. His artistic focus became prostitutes, tragic clowns, and pitiless judges.

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Georges Rouault, Detail#2 of Nocturne, 1939

Rouault is considered an isolated figure in art history for at least two reasons: he practiced Expressionism a style that has never found much favor in France, and he was chiefly a religious painter—one of the most convincing in recent centuries. Both statements, however, need qualification. Rouault was not as fiercely Expressionistic as some of his expressionistic contemporaries; and he was not an official church artist; his concern with sin and redemption was deeply personal.  Rouault has been an artist of personal interest and inspiration to me.  That’s one of the reasons I was so thrilled to see so many of his paintings in Cincinnati.

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