Rouault, Georges - by Makoto Fujimura
Georges Rouault — the First 21st Century Artist
by Makoto Fujimura
Myriad Parisians returning home from work rushed about in the square in front of Gare de Lyon station. "He would have been able to see Seine river," Gilles Rouault told me, and pointed to far horizon where the newer buildings now block the view. He stroked the chair his grandfather would have sat, and showed me a photo of Georges Rouault with Marthe, wife of over fifty years, to the opposite end of the window. Georges Rouault (1871 - 1954) was a keen observer of people, and he must have enjoyed watching the square from his window. He painted figures and portraits as "a fit object of grace, while more visibly born in and for suffering."1
He sought out the marginalized poor, prostitutes, clowns, politicians; to him Kings and homeless were equally significant as his symbol of brokenness. But ultimately they, especially the misfits, were celebrated as God's chosen manifestation of light into darkness. I asked Gilles if this area was popular area for artists to live, having just walked about the gentrified "creative zone" nearby filled with design studios, art students, and cafes. "No," Gilles told me, " back then this area was not very popular among artists." Gare de Lyon area does not have the charm of Montmartre, where Rouault once painted with late-impressionsists like Degas, or the intellectual rigor of St. Andre-des-Arts, where Sartre and other existentialists would have discussed philosophy; no, what you see, and must have been from Rouault's studio were scenes of ordinary people mingled about in a theatre of life.