Georges Rouault was born in Paris on May 27, 1871. He was the son of a cabinetmaker who sent him to a very stern Protestant school. At age fourteen, Rouault left school to become an apprentice under a man who repaired medieval stained-glass windows in his studio.

At night Rouault would go to art school at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, then later went full-time, when he left his apprenticeship. Gustave Moreau, his painting teacher, had a great influence on his life.

In 1895 Rouault used art mainly to express his deep concerns about poverty, injustice, war and corruption. His work express his deep concern for the state of the world. Religious subjects, unhappy clowns and corrupt judges were common themes for him. He was one of the few modern artists who used art as a means of expressing religious feelings.

Although he had begun as a painter, Rouault's graphic works later became his primary interest and his illustrated books. Rouault created the 58 plates of the Miserere using nearly every known process of etching and engraving. Probably no artist achieved so much in printmaking as Rouault did in his Miserere series.

Rouault was such a perfectionist that he destroyed over 300 pieces of his own artwork because he considered them inadequate. He spent the last years of his life trying to reach the standards of perfection he had set for himself when he passed away in 1958.


PROFILE OF A CLOWN - This style of art was a result of his early experiences as an apprentice at stained-glass window studio. The blocks of intense color are sectioned off by thick black strokes and strong black outlines that seem to have a visual effect similar to the lead that holds together pieces of stained glass. Even the curved shape that frames the clown is similar to a church window. Rouault used the impasto technique of applying thick paint with broad brushstrokes.

The clown profile shows a long face with a long straight nose wearing a small green hat, and a ruffled collar around his neck. The artist used mostly dull greens and reds that contrast strongly. Although the colors are dull, they retain a somber glow. Notice how the artist positioned three red sections to balance the composition: The hair and suit of the clown and the bar in the background. 

The mood suggests that this jester is really unhappy inside. The tragic clown is expected to look happy but he is actually sad, symbolizing the suffering of mankind, yet we are left feeling sorry for the clown.

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