The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
He was the artist of the wounded and of the afflicted; his images of
humanity showed the rejected, the outcast, the sorrowing, and the suffering.
He saw himself as one of them, not because of any particular event in his
life, but simply because as a man he shared their humanity. A self-portrait
from his mid 50s, for example, shows him as a sorrowing apprentice, condemned
to unremitting labor and toil. He turned conventional notions of beauty upside
down and he in his turn was denounced for purveying "ugliness": the French
philosopher Leon Bloy accused him of painting only the ugly. But the French
painter and printmaker Georges Rouault (1871-1958) was not deterred. His choice
of such unlikely subjects as acrobats, clowns, judges, prostitutes, the accused,
the condemned, and the fugitive, of laborers, the homeless, the destitute,
and sorrowing mothers was hardly a revolt against either the canons of art
or those of beauty. Rather, they were images of obedience to what he called
his "inner voice." A devout Roman Catholic who believed that suffering can
redeem the lives of others, he often portrayed his subjects as Christ-like
figures. "Anyone can revolt," he wrote. "It is harder to obey in silence our
own inner voice."
Southgate MT. Nous devons mourir, nous et tout ce qui est nôtre. JAMA. 2003;289(23):3052. doi:10.1001/jama.289.23.3052