Georges Rouault, “Christ on the Road I”

Here we see Christ with two people whom he explains what they need to hear from him. Christ has stopped with them on the road from a little church, on the way to another parts of the world. Rouault’s way of painting the landscape blurs everything around – we see a world that is unavailable. We the viewers of the painting are able and unable to see it normally. But something in the painting is irresistibly attractive – may be, it is earth itself – thick, solid, substantial, soil made of clay – the living made of clay which is made of paint.

But why to represent Christ so indiscernible, as if, in a dense fog? For us it is so difficult even see him, to identify him visually. Isn’t it usually the artist’s intention to clearly depict the protagonist of the painting, not to hide or mask him – to make him present for viewers – for our minds and souls? Why Rouault didn’t make Christ more understandable for us?

Georges Rouault has a unique, paradoxical painting style while depicting Christ to the audience – he is not only a painter, nor just painterly stylist, but a spiritual teacher who wants to elucidate for us through his style the very perspective which, according to him, can help us be able to perceive Christ as a Human God, not only an extraordinary preacher. It seems that Rouault wants us to grasp Christ not as an over-powerful God, but as a Man with humility – an example of what a human being ought to be.

Rouault knows that we regular people lived and live in an environment where greed for power and wealth, rudeness and egoism enslave us, made us desperately hateful instead of being modest and responsive and caring for one another. We worship weapons, we come to another countries to bribe their elites so we can grab more for ourselves and to dominate other nations. Rouault wants us to get – what Christ is trying to explain to us, and for this purpose he invents his unique painting style to make us see how different our fallen world is from Christ’s aspirations. For Rouault, the spiritual world is on the verge of, as if, disappearing, stopping to exist – we no longer deserve to see it directly.
The “normal” world we live in – abnormal in the Christian sense, is easy for us the fallen people to see, but in Rouault’s painting we can barely recognize Christ and the world He lives in, walks and preaches for our sake. It is, as if, Rouault is reminding us that our world, one of endless fight and rivalry is not a decent place in comparison with the world according to Christ which is unknown to us. And Rouault shows us through his paintings this genuine world which we cannot see clearly on his canvasses.

Rouault‘s manner of painting life of Christ makes Him almost unavailable to our eyes which are used to our false/fake everyday existence where we like to brag about before our neighbors. Our pompous and proudly prosperous self-centered life is a shameful contrast to Christ’s tremendously humble/modest existence which should become as clearly visible if we could forget about our own flashy and bombastically loud presence.

Rouault’s unique manner of representing Christ’s life and his world deserves high appreciation. The feeling that nature is self-hiding, as if, trying to be unavailable to regular human perception, as if, withdrawing from being noticed, which Rouault projects to his canvasses is masterfully imagined. We see, as if, the spiritual world is closing its eyes so as not to see the profane reality of our philistine life. The part of Rouault’s originality is his style which prevents regular perception from too easily entering the subject of the painting. It’s like iconic portraits of Madonna where St. Mary keeps out the palm of her hand, as if, to prevent too enthusiastic viewers from entering the world of sainthood.


Georges Rouault, “Christ on the Road 2”


Georges Rouault (1871– 1958)