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Georges Rouault (1871-1958)

Seigneur, c'est vous, je vous reconnais

Georges Rouault (1871-1958)
Seigneur, c'est vous, je vous reconnais
oil on paper laid down on canvas
40 3/8 x 39¾ in. (102.6 x 101 cm.)
Painted circa 1925-1939
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Acquired by the present owner, 2006.
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Georges Rouault, March-June 1997, p. 228, no. 38 (illustrated; illustrated in color, p. 77; with incorrect medium).

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Sarah Wendell
Sarah Wendell

Lot Essay

The Fondation Georges Rouault has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

Rouault's credentials as a Modernist were firmly established by his role among the founders of the Salon d'Automne in 1903. However, his devout upbringing, his early training with medieval stained glass and his committed schooling under Gustave Moreau made him an unpredictable avant-gardist with a vehement, heartfelt style quite unlike any of his contemporaries. Before the First World War, Rouault met with little commercial success. Only on his return to Paris in 1917 from a period of frugal living in Versailles and with the help of the dealer Ambroise Vollard, who undertook to pay him a salary in return for exclusive rights of representation, did matters begin to look up for Rouault.

The present work is a major example from the project that can be considered the crowning glory of the association between Rouault and Vollard, the graphic series Miserere. This full-scale return to sacred subject matter represented a sort of coming home for Rouault, with the profundity of the Miserere series heightened further by its dedication to Rouault's father. Seigneur, c'est vous, je vous reconnais, the present work, is the prototype upon which plate thirty-two of the series is based. It relates to the episode told in Saint John's gospel of Thomas's recognition of the risen Christ.

Rouault is able to convey his own religious feelings in painting through color and pigment alone, apart from all representation. Anticipating the redemption of all men through supernatural love, he unites what went before with what is to come after. Certain of his works are stamped with an Old Testament grandeur that is either fiercely patriarchal or cruelly feminine, and the question arises whether we do not have here the remote influence of Gustave Moreau's tiaraed idols...

Everything about Rouault is so christian that his choice of one subject or another adds nothing in depth to the uniqueness and truth of his art. "Everything you do is religious," Suarès wrote him, "even your clowns. You present one miserable prositute exactly as she is: she gets only crumbs of sensuality from the banquet table of life... Your faith becomes the less obvious the more ardent it is. You never capitalise on it, never trade on it."

This, I believe, sums up Rouault's achievement. He was a painter of inwardness, of the supernatural light that glows in the profound depths. He never took God's name in vain... His work is filled with consciousness of God, but also with great pity for his creatures and their unworthiness. To believe is to suffer, according to Rouault, who revealed God in all things--but from within, as a vision, not as an image' (P. Courthion, Georges Rouault, London, 1962, pp. 250-252 and 348).

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