Printmaking constituted a major part of Georges Rouault’s work.
His Miserere is considered his greatest masterpiece. Closely related to his paintings, printmaking offered him a greater form of expression through tone and shading and allowed him to develop his drawing technique.
Throughout his career, Georges Rouault produced a rich abundance of prints using a variety of techniques including burin engraving, aquatint, lithography and heliography. His collection of graphic work consists of series of prints initially intended to illustrate books. Some of these books were published but some never made it to print.
Rouault received commissions from Vollard (Réincarnations du Père Ubu, Cirque de l’Étoile filante, Passion) as well as other publishers of illustrated books such as Éditions Edmond Frapier (Souvenirs intimes 1926, Saltimbanques 1927-1929, Grotesques 1927-1929 etc.), Les Quatre Chemins (La petite banlieue 1929), Éditions Porteret (Paysages légendaires 1929) and Éditions l’étoile filante (Les Fleurs du Mal 1936)…
A little over a century ago, Rouault began a series of engravings on copper plates which thirty years later would be published under the title Miserere.
This monumental work, whose production was as long as it was painful, Rouault considered as a representation of his artistic effort: “I was like a peasant in the field, attached to my pictorial soil, like the man hanged by his own hempen rope, like an ox under the yoke. Though terribly restless, I never took my nose out of my work save to ascertain the light, the shadow, the half-tint, the curious features of certain pilgrims’ faces. I noted forms, colours, fleeting harmonies until I was sure they were so indelibly impressed in my memory that they would stay with me beyond the grave.”
An amateur of deluxe books, Vollard commissioned Rouault with the illustrations of a number of books: Réincarnations du Père Ubu, Cirque de l’Étoile filante, Passionand Les Fleurs du Mal. Rouault also collaborated with many other editors on a number of other projects.
Georges Rouault produced an abundance of prints. Other than Miserere and his illustrated books, many works were created as special editions or for illustrations that were never published. Rouault used a large variety of techniques. A large collection of studies and proofs in black and colour have been preserved and inventoried. There is an intimate connection between painting and printmaking.