This is another of the many paintings thatGeorges Rouaultdedicated to the clowns of his day. For example, on this website we have already talked about his work Three Clowns
Actually,Rouaultwas always a faithful follower of clowns, but not because of his performances but because he saw in them generally sad and poor beings, who only they transcended through his artistic soul. Actually, he saw in them homeless people with enormous freedom of movement, something that appealed to him when compared to his sedentary life.
The old clown of Rouault
His devotion to these circus characters was such that he almost turned them into images of religious piety. He always presents it to us with the same expression, and the idea he draws from is human sympathy for universal suffering. The artist himself conceived that the sympathy and generosity of these characters was what gave shape to the colors of his work.
In this case we are looking at a canvas that he painted between 1917 and 1920. We see the bust of a clown. His nose, mouth and eyes are depicted in a somewhat crude way, as doing it in a more refined way would have completely broken the aesthetics of the work.
His face and the hat on his head have an oval outline, which is a shape that serves to animate and give vitality to that coarseness that we mentioned.
YesIf we look carefully we will discover that there are penetrating areas of shadow with pure black, which is a great contrast with the elements that are presented with very intense colors, which actually function as points of light within the canvas. In this way, light and shadows are what give spatiality to the work and its chromatic surface. All this while simplifying the means he uses in his painting to the maximum, in order to intensify his expressiveness.
Rouault was a disciple of Gustave Moreau, author of works such as his famous Salome. However, Rouault in his early days also flirted withFauvist art. However, he soon discarded it and experimented with more realistic forms, especially focusing on the human condition, which is why he was attracted to circus characters, but also prostitutes or dancers. All of them characters who act under a mask to make people happy, while hiding their own pain. He looks for that pain in the expressiveness of the gaze and the poses. He defined it this way, and not only with respect to clowns, but it is applicable to any man or woman: “Behind the shining mask, we all hide a tormented soul.”