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Georges Rouault: The Sacred and the Profane at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum
A woman looks at some of the artworks made by French painter Georges Rouault that are part of the exhibition 'Georges Roault. The sacred and the profane' at Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in Bilbao, northern Spain, 15 November 2010. The exhibition, that runs until 13 February 2011, includes 156 works that revise his evolution and includes hitherto unheard of works that the artist considered to be unfinished. EPA/LUIS TEJIDO.

BILBAO.- Starting today and until the 13th of February 2011, Georges Rouault. The Sacred and the Profane exhibition containing 156 works of art, including oil paintings, etchings and even one of the artist's stained glass windows, will allow visitors to discover one of the most outstanding artists of the XX century for themselves. In spite of the fact that some of the artist's most important works such as Parade (c. 1907-1910), L’apprenti-ouvrier (1925), Veronique (1945) and the Miserere series of etchings (of which the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum has 4 prints) will be on display, the exhibition cannot be considered a conventional retrospective as such. Its originality resides in its exhibiting a fair number of hitherto unknown and unfinished works from Rouault's studio - to which the artist rarely granted access - that his wife, Marthe Rouault, donated to France in 1963.

By offering such a wide selection of works organised by exhibition curator, Angela Lampe, Curator of the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Museum will give visitors the opportunity to delve deeper into the work of the artist and follow his evolution from his first works executed with dominant blues and expressive scribbles to his final works in which he used warmer colours and thicker layers of paint.

Furthermore, the close relationship that exists between the sacred and the profane subject matters serves to emphasise Rouault's profound concern for the human condition. Rouault, with his sort of spiritual expressionism, created one of the most original pictorical works of the past.

In 1891 Georges Rouault became a student at the Ecole des Beaux-arts de Paris, where he studied under Gustave Moreau and where he met Henri Matisse and Albert Marquet. With the two last he organized the first Salon d’Automne in 1902, and it was in a studio in the Rue Rochechouart, which he shared with Marquet amongst others, that Rouault painted the first of his “Girls.” Lacking money to pay for models, the painters invited the prostitutes on the street outside to come and warm up in the studio whenever they liked.

When Rouault describes the way in which he painted in blue the woman he saw before him to make her match the mood he was in, he goes straight to the heart of the Fauve aesthetic. Yet when one looks attentively at his paintings, one cannot but be struck by his profound singularity, characterised as they are by a fierce black line and sombre colours, sometimes lifted by bright red, a manner that often gives the impression of glowing stained glass. Here are no areas of pure colour or the accumulated patches of broken colour such as might be employed by Braque or Derain or Vlaminck to render the intense light of the South: Rouault’s lyricism is darker, as art critic Louis Vauxcelles would remark. And indeed, at the Salon d’Automne of 1905, the five canvases that Rouault showed were not hung in the room the same writer would make famous as the “cage aux fauves” (the cage of wild beasts), but in a neighbouring section alongside other pupils of Gustave Moreau’s.

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