20th century Expressionist; les Fauvés Painter, Printmaker
(May 27, 1871–February 13, 1958)
Rouault was one of the most important artists to focus on Christian subject matter through the first half of the 20th century, yet his traditional religious views were never at odds with his avant-garde artistic spirit. If anything, his devout Roman Catholicism supported his lifelong exploration of themes relating to the poor, oppressed, or war torn-buoyed by the hope of salvation.
His own personal views and meditations crystallized during the terrible conflicts of World War I and were incorporated into the series Miserere et Guerre (Miserere and War). A selection from the series, which comprises 58 large-scale prints, is included in this installation. The images merge Roman Catholic sentiment with political and social concerns of the day; they also reveal a commitment to contemporary literature.
The works in Rouault's Miserere were first executed in India ink in 1917. At that time, the artist was under contract with the ambitious and entrepreneurial Parisian publisher Ambroise Vollard, who encouraged him to copy his work in painting. Vollard then sponsored a project to produce an edition of prints. To accomplish this, the paintings were photoengraved onto large copper plates. Rouault then painstakingly reworked each plate by hand, combining many intaglio techniques including aquatint, mezzotint, drypoint, etching, scraping, and burnishing. He even stretched the medium by applying acid with a brush to achieve his desired effects.
In the first part of Miserere, Jesus's suffering is interwoven with that of humankind. Death dominates the second part of the series, which culminates with the assertion of the Christian principles of resurrection and salvation through sacrifice.