Rouault’s Pink Harlequin

Tuesday, April 23rd 2024

by Georges Rouault

Georges Rouault (Français, 1871-1958)

Harlequin (Pink Harmony), ca.1948-1952

Oil on canvas.
Workshop stamp on back of canvas.

H. 40.7 W. 31.8 cm.
In a blackened wood frame (H.53 W. 44 cm).

Provenance: from a collection in the Bay of Arcachon.
Art Loss Register Certificate dated April 8, 2024.

Bibliography: Olivier Nouaille & Olivier Rouault, "Rouault l'oeuvre peint", Fondation Georges Rouault, 2021, see p. 299, nr. 4427-3185.

Notice of inclusion into the Catalogue complet des oeuvres de Georges Rouault, by Jean-Yves Rouault, President of Fondation Rouault, dated Dec. 5, 2013.
Art Loss Register Certificate dated April 8, 2024.

Painted by Georges Rouault in the latter part of his career, between 1948 and 1952, Harlequin (Pink Harmony) can be seen as a blend of all of the artist's considerations, as he pursued a theme dear to him while softening his aesthetic vocabulary.

A unique painter that belonged to no particular movement, Rouault proposed his own reality without replicating the truth, preferring to "turn his back on nature", as André Suarès put it, thus breaking from his 19th C. predecessors such as Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who also painted circus scenes and characters.

With its tight framing only revealing the upper part of Harlequin's bust, this work is part of a corpus of paintings produced at the turn of the 1940s and 1950s (see Olivier Nouaille and Olivier Rouault, op.cit., p. 299). When depicting emotions, the artist played with variations. While Harlequin seems meditative, sporting a faint smile, he can also be very happy, as in a 1947 painting (reproduced in Pierre Courthion, Georges Rouault, Paris, Flammarion, 1962, p. 281). Unlike paintings of the early 20th C., he does not express any "infinite sadness" but embodies the artist's appeasement. In Harlequin (Pink Harmony), the viewer can notice a softening of the painter's tones and the use of a thicker medium. It prefigures the paintings Rouault made at the twilight of his career, when boundaries between painting and sculpture tended to disappear.

Georges Rouault had been working tirelessly on portraits of Circus and Commedia dell'arte characters since 1902-1903. This painting is one of the last stones on his path of research into the figure of Harlequin, after many depictions, most notably in Divertissement, published in 1943. "I clearly saw that I was the 'clown', we were... almost all of us..." wrote Georges Rouault to writer and philosopher Édouard Schuré in 1905. These comical characters provided the artist with a means to reflect on his contemporaries, the world around him, and his own existence. "He was not simply looking for a way to express his plastic or formal preoccupations with color and movement, but rather an opportunity to express the life hidden behind make-up, powder and glitter" (Danielle Molinari, Georges Rouault catalog raisonné, Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, 1983, p. 31). Harlequin thus becomes an introspection tool.

36th Garden Party Auction
May 24-27, 2024

at château d'Artigny
92, rue de Monts 37250 Montbazon, France.
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