Human suffering is the enduring theme in the art of Georges Rouault (1871-1958). The sad clowns and weary prostitutes in his dark, smudgy paintings wear the facial expressions of their private moments, when people allow themselves to look the way they feel. Critics complained that his subjects were distressing and his pictures were ugly, but of course there is nothing pretty about human suffering.
Rouault was born during the German bombardment of Paris in 1871. At age 14, he was apprenticed to an artisan who made and restored stained glass windows, and this experience was probably the first major influence on his idiosyncratic style. In his subsequent paintings and prints, the dark, heavy outlines of solid figures are reminiscent of the lead strips that join shapes of colored glass in church windows.
Cole TB. Our Lady of the Fields, No. 4. JAMA. 2008;300(19):2218. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.670
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