Georges Rouault (1871-1958)
signed 'G. Rouault' (upper right); signed and titled 'G. Rouault Pierrot' (on the reverse)
oil on paper laid down by the artist on canvas
22 1/8 x 15 7/8 in. (56.2 x 40.3 cm.)
Painted in 1937-1938
Dalzell-Hatfield Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1970.
P. Courthion, Georges Rouault, New York, 1977, p. 466 (illustrated, p. 269).
B. Dorival and I. Rouault, Rouault, L'oeuvre peint, Monte-Carlo, 1988, vol. II, p. 173, no. 2007 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Circus performers and the characters of the commedia dell'arte remained Rouault's most frequent subjects throughout his career. The heavily encrusted surface in Pierrot is characteristic of Rouault's lyrical, mature style and projects both spiritual gravitas and the very weight and substance of worldly existence. Thick, black contours set off the figure's forms against a radiant and richly textured background. The artist's adept handling of light recalls the effects of stained glass, which he studied as a young apprentice; as James Thrall Soby suggests, Rouault may have absorbed the coloristic influences of Byzantine enamels, Roman mosaics and Coptic tapestries into his late work as well. The warm harmonies of Pierrot are a testament to Rouault's mastery of spiritual and emotional color and suggest the artist's graceful acquiescence to the "ideal of art for its own sake," which his early figures so powerfully repudiated, in the serenity of his later years (J.T. Soby, Georges Rouault, Paintings and Prints, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1945, p. 26).
The noble sanctity of this wise and whimsical clown evokes an auspicious soul, one whose philosophical outlook and serenity matched the artist's own, newfound peace in the mid-1930s. "I spent my life painting twilights," Rouault reflected at the time. "I ought to have the right now to paint the dawn" (op. cit., p. 28).

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