Georges Rouault: Miserere et Guerre

Georges Rouault, Miserere et Guerre No. 58 (1922) 

No. 58, "C'est par ses meurtrissures que nous

sommes guéris." ("And with his stripes we are healed.")
Isaiah 53:5
, 1922. Image © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Georges Rouault, Miserere et Guerre No. 55 (c.1927) 

No. 55, L'aveugle parfois a consolé le voyant.
(Sometimes the blind have comforted those
that see.),
c. 1927. Image © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / ADAGP, Paris.
Georges Rouault: Miserere et Guerre logo MOCRA periodically offers the rare opportunity to see all 58 works in this landmark in the history of printmaking and twentieth-century art.

Georges Rouault - Miserere et Guerre, installed at MOCRA
Here faith, love, and charity, vanity and cruelty, hypocrisy and pharisaism, life and death, are synthesized . . . This work is striking, even frightening. Every element in it has greatness. In the Miserere, in this ensemble of aggressive, sparse, grandiose compositions, Rouault has perhaps expressed himself most completely. -- Georges Chabot

    March 8 - July 31, 2011

    Previous showings:
    March 2 - May 11, 2003
    January 18 - April 2, 2000
    March 21 - April 26, 1994
General Exhibition Information
Hours:  Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm

Admission:  free, with suggested donation of $5/adults, $1/students and children
Directions and parking information
Group visit information
Rouault - Miserere et Guerre info sheet thumbnail Download an informational brochure with sample images.
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Traffic Advisory

The Grand Bridge closed for reconstruction on March 14, 2011. This project will affect many of the routes for driving to MOCRA, as well as public transportation options.

Click here for more information.

Georges Rouault and the Art of Sacred Engagement
a lecture by MOCRA Director Terrence Dempsey, S.J.

     May 1, 2011   2 p.m.
     Free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

2011 SGC International Print Conference

     March 16 - 19, 2011
     MOCRA is one of several Grand Center and Downtown museums and galleries that will be featured
     on Saturday, March 19, 2011. Many events are open to the general public. Click here for more information.

Georges Rouault, Miserere et Guerre No. 36 (1927) 

No. 36, Ce sera la dernière, petit père! (This
will be the last time, father!), 1927. Image © 2011
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Georges Rouault, Miserere et Guerre No. 42 (1927) 

No. 42, Bella matribus detestata. ("Wars, dread
of mothers.
") Horace, Odes, I, 1, 24/5, 1927. Image © 2011
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

About the artist
Georges Rouault is an isolated figure in twentieth-century art. He remained outside of the group movements that dominated the century, yet was possessed of a fixed and persistent artistic vision. Born in Paris in 1871, he was apprenticed as a youth to a stained glass workshop. In 1891, he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and studied under Gustave Moreau. He was involved with the Fauvists (including Henri Matisse) and began participating in major exhibitions. Rouault’s recurrent subjects include judges, clowns and prostitutes, who serve as vehicles for moral and social critique and reflections on human nature. Christian themes, particularly the passion of Jesus, are a dominant strain in Rouault’s work. Rouault seems psychologically attuned to the intensity and spirituality of stained glass, and heavy contours and gothic distortion of form are readily observable in his work. In addition to paintings, drawings, and prints, he also executed ceramics and designs for tapestry and stained glass, as well as the set for Diaghilev’s ballet 1929 ballet The Prodigal Son. Rouault is credited as an influence on the German Expressionists. A highly regarded figure in France, he was given a state funeral upon his death in 1958.

"Aggressive, sparse, grandiose" . . . and eloquent
Miserere et Guerre was originally conceived as a collaborative project with the poet André Suarès, and the artist composed the majority of the images between 1914 and 1918. The books never appeared, but under the strenuous demands of Rouault’s publisher and dealer, Ambroise Vollard, he continued to rework the plates in succeeding years. Rouault writes in the preface to the series:

. . . They were originally drawn in India ink, and later, at Ambroise Vollard’s request, were transformed into paintings. He then had them transferred to copper plates. It was apparently desirable that a first impression on copper should be made. With these as a starting point, I have tried, taking infinite pains, to preserve the rhythm and quality of the original drawing. I worked unceasingly on each plate, with varying success, using many different tools. There is no secret about my methods. Dissatisfied, I reworked the plates again and again, sometimes making as many as fifteen successive states; for I wished them as far as possible to be equal in quality. . . .

The works were printed in an edition of 450 in 1927 (although they were not exhibited until 1948), and they are a milestone in expanding the technical and expressive range of the print. Following the photographic transfer of his ink drawings to large copper plates, Rouault made use of aquatint, drypoint, roulette, and other intaglio printing techniques to extensively rework the original images.

Rouault himself said, "All of my work is religious for those who know how to look at it," and the Miserere series is in many senses a comprehensive expression of Rouault's religious vision. A devout Catholic, Rouault's faith informed his work, which at times seems to serve as a vehicle for moral judgment and retains vitality and relevance today. The works lament the evils of the modern world, juxtaposing society's predators with its downtrodden and, in the second half of the series, treating the suffering and injustice of war. Rouault intersperses throughout images of Christ, who in his sufferings is identified with the poor and powerless. Yet finally the artist's challenge to society to recognize its sins is tempered with embracing pity and hope in the redemptive power of compassion.

Art critic John Canaday describes Rouault as "one of the great printmakers of the age," and the Miserere prints as "landmarks in the development of print techniques." Born out of the unprecedented violence of the First World War and Rouault's intense compassion for the marginalized and underprivileged, Miserere et Guerre stands as a singular achievement in the realms of printmaking and religious art. The works speak as forcefully and poignantly today as when they were first printed over 80 years ago, and can be appreciated for their technical achievement, stark beauty, human insight, and spiritual integrity. There are only a few complete sets of Miserere et Guerre in American collections, and it is rare to have the opportunity to see the series in its entirety. MOCRA is pleased to invite audiences to experience this major body of work by one of the twentieth century's master artists.

MOCRA is grateful to the Jesuit Community at Saint Louis University for its assistance in rematting and reframing the Miserere etchings.

Georges Rouault, Miserere et Guerre No. 47 (1927) 

No. 47, "De profundis ..." ("Out of the depths ...") Psalm 130:1, 1927.
Image © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Georges Rouault, Miserere et Guerre No. 32 (1927) 

No. 32, Seigneur, c'est vous, je vous reconnais.
(Lord, it is you, I know you.), 1927. Image © 2011
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

More information

The Rouault Foundation

information on Miserere et Guerre

Miserere et Guerre at the Museum of Biblical Art, New York

Miserere et Guerre at the Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University

Georges Rouault at the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Georges Rouault on Artcyclopedia

additional biographical information about Georges Rouault

Miserere et Guerre in the media - 2003 showing

Miserere et Guerre in the media - 2000 showing

Miserere et Guerre in the media - 1994 showing
Higher purpose. Greater good.
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