Goerges Rouault(1871-1958) was born to a poor working class parents. Although economically indigent, his family members were artistically talented and loved arts. His maternal grandfather liked paintings and collected the lithographs of Honnore Daumier and the reproduction paintings of Rembrandt, Gustave Courbet, and Eduard Manet, and such a hobby of his maternal grandfather stimulated Rouault's artistic aspiration. Also, his family members were Christians, and this influenced Rouault's deep piousness.
He was apprenticed the stained glass in his childhood, and entered in 1891 Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux-Arts à Paris where he painted in the symbolist and mystic styles while being taught by Gustave Moreau(1826-1898). Around 1903 he participated in modern artistic movements and changed dramatically in his painting style while sharing a studio with his friends from Montmartre such as albert Marquet(1875-1947). Rouault is called a Fauvist, but he was not constrained by the formulae of Fauvism. The Fauvist expression of shapes and structures through colors can certainly be found in the works of Rouault, but Rouault's originality is manifested by his use of the technique that reminds one of stained glass and the metaphorical images that resemble the icons of the Byzantine period. Rouault was fascinated by and sought after the radiance of mysterious light through a technique of stained glass.
The art of Rouault is divided into three different periods starting from 1903 when a conspicuous stylistic change occurred: the early period from 1903 to 1918 when World War 1 was ended; the middle period from 1919 to 1945; and the late period after 1945. In the early period Rouault mainly painted prostitues with watercolors, in the middle period turned to oil paintings and started to make paintings whose subject matter was puppeteers, which continued to his late years, and concentrated his concern on religious subjects in the late period. The coherent interest of Rouault lies in human being, especially human beings in pain. Even Christ was portrayed as a human being who suffered in his paintings.
From 1905 to 1907 Rouault asked street prositutes to pose for him and frequently painted them. Repulsively contorted and distorted appearances of those prostutes seem to expose the despair felt by Rouault in front of human beings' fall, and the violent black lines, which flexibly overlap each other, suggest the misfortune, corruption, and moral degradation of prostitutes. From 1910, Rouault abandons little by little his light technique mixing watercolor, ink, and pastel in favor of oil painting. His works become firmer and gain in plasticity. According to a letter to his friend André Suares, a religious wtriter, it is precesely in 1915 that he begins the search for a less lyrical approach than previously.
During his childhood years Rouault visited many low-priced circuses in the suburbs and envied the liberal life of the circus performers. Rouault's attachment to acrobats was started around 1902 and continued to his late years. To Rouault, acrobats seemed not to be bound by anything and to be freed from daily constraints. Acrobats are, for him, human being with freedom and dreams but at the same time wounded ones who are groaning at the lowest level of society. And in his paintings, the faces of acrobats start to resemble the face of Christ who died on a crucifix. Regardless of his subject, whether a king, an acrobat, or a prostitute, the world delivered by Rouault the most eminent religion painter in the twentieth century.
How influential has been Rouault's art in the Korean art scene? With the introduction of Fauvism to Korea, Rouault was naturally received by the Korean public. The visual language of Fauvism was the symbolic style of those artists who had nothing to do with the government and did not participated in Joseon Art Exhibition, which was organized by the government. As the unrestrained expressive mode of Fauvism was employed by outside artists to reveal their liberal artistic consciousness, Fauvism was not developed to establish a coherent artistic group or movement, but was integrated into the methods of individual artists.
They did not logically comprehend Fauvism, and they did not hold fast to the theories and concepts of Fauvism. It might be natural that those artists who wanted to be free in their art-making did not analyze Fauvism theoretically or did not investigate the art of each Fauvist of the West. In the case of Rouault, it is equally difficult to discover artists or artworks influences by him.
Among the artists of this period, Ku Pong-ung and Lee Jung-sup were most influenced by Rouault. In Ku's <Woman>, the black outtlines, coarse texture, and the color scheme demonstrate something of Rouault's work. With the exception of several works, most paintings by Lee demonstrate the influence of Fauvism: his crude and liberal brushwork, though somewhat different from that of Fauvism, creates an expressive flow of lines. Not all of Lee's works remind one of Rouault's art, but it is certain that Rouault's artistic style can be found in Lee's some paintings whose expressive vocabulary manifest Lee's liberalness and passionate and rebellious life. Several pieces of his Bull Series made in the 1950s show many artistic traits similar to Rouault's. A certain connection to Rouault can be discerned through the violent and rapid brushwork and the black lines that unite forms and background rather than separating the former from the latter. Yet, Lee's Bull Series also render the rural atmosphere peculiar to Korea and the joys and sorrows of Korean people, and in this respect the art of Lee differentiates from that of Rouault.
The artistic manners of Fauvism were received in general, and the styles of many different fauvist artists are combined in the work of a Korean artist. As examined so far, it is difficult to observe the direct influence of Rouault upon the Korean art scene. Indeed, there were many Korean artists who liked Rouault's art, but they did not attempt to grasp its depths in a systematic and logical way. They excerpted from it what they need in accordance with their own artistic tastes. It can be concluded, therefore, that a direct reception of the art of Rouault did not occur in the Korean art scene. Korean painters interpreted the artistic modes of the West such as Impressionism and Fauvism in their own way so as to formulate the originality of Korean art.