Rouault, Biographical and Critical Study

Rouault, Biographical and Critical Study

Rouault, Biographical and Critical Study

Rouault, Biographical and Critical Study

Excerpt

Only yesterday Rouault was still with us, a kindly, cordial presence, a friend among friends, in spite of his fits of temper. Now that he is no more, we see him differently; he looms large in retrospect, he was even greater than we thought, and we find ourselves wondering how it is that Rouault lived for fifty years in isolation, yet could impress his personality so deeply on the art life of our century.

To write about him at one time was like following in his footsteps, along the highways and byways of his painting, and sharing his solitude. It was galling to think that so fine an artist should be so little appreciated, that the circle of his admirers should be so small, that he should be virtually unknown to the public at large and unpatronized either by the Church or by the French Government. It is true that the large exhibition of his works at the Petit-Palais in 1937, during the Paris World's Fair, was a revelation. But a barrier of hostility and indifference remained and anyone who took an interest in him became, as it were, his confederate.

Rouault's estrangement from the art world was due in large part to Ambroise Vollard, who provided the painter with a comfortable income but monopolized his entire production and jealously guarded it from prying eyes. Vollard became his sole agent about 1917. Thereafter the only paintings by Rouault in general circulation were those executed before the First World War, so that the appearance of his recent work at the 1937 exhibition created a sensation. The policy adopted by Vollard, however, is not the whole story. By the very nature of his art and his own temperament, Rouault was an independent, an outsider. Such had not always been the case, for in his youth he was the favorite pupil of Gustave Moreau and friendly with Matisse, his classmate in Moreau's studio; he played an active . . .

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