George Rouault (1871-1958) was born in a Parisian cellar. A stray shell- from the insurrection- struck his family’s house and forced them to escape into a nearby cellar. His father was a cabinet-maker in a piano factory. His paternal grandfather was a lover of art, an admirer of Manet and Daumier, who hoped the child would become a painter. Rouault was in his adolescence when he apprenticed to a stained glass maker. This early contact with stained glass influenced his later career as painter and printmaker. At the same time he attended evening classes at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, and studied painting at the Louvre. He attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts under Elie Delaunay, who died soon after. He became the favorite pupil and a close friend of Gustave Moreau.
He has painted landscapes. Rouault always saw himself as an artisan, an anonymous laborer making devotional images. He used black outline to reinforce the brilliancy of color and expressive gesture in the manner of mosaics or medieval miniatures. He drew freely from various sources in order to give traditional overtones to his modern statement of human dilemma. His preoccupation over the years with the plight of prostitutes, tragicomic clowns and biblical martyrs, who as outcasts from society, suffer the burden of insoluble ethical demands, reflects the existential dread of despair he, as an artist, suffered himself.