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Rouault, Georges
Executioner’s Helper (Man Carrying the Beam of the Cross), from the Saures Passion Executioner’s Helper (Man Carrying the Beam of the Cross), from the Saures Passion
1936 1936

Already in 1927 Georges Rouault began to discuss a series of the Passion in his correspondence with his friend Andre Saures (1). In 1935 AND 1936 HE produced 17 etchings and 82 woodcuts, for a volume that was published by Ambroise Vollard in an edition of 250 in 1939. The series follows no particular order, and this scene falls after a similar one of a man holding a beam, entitled “Chemineau” (Tramp) and one of the Lamentation entitled “L’homme a la myrrhe” (The myrrh bearer). Rouault carried out the color etchings in collaboration with Roger Lacourier, who executed the color plates while Rouault prepared the black plates, of which the present impression is an artist’s proof, monogrammed and dated on the plate. It shows a hulking figure, stripped to the waist, in three quarter view from the back, with a broad beam laid across his shoulders supported by his right hand. His head is turned towards the action of the Crucifixion, off to the left. The forms are laid out in Rouault’s characteristically broad, efficient and expressive strokes of the brush in aquatint on the plate. The brutality of the scene underscores Rouault’s own critical stance and pessimism, as a modern existentialist interpreter of the Roman Catholic tradition.
Born in Paris in 1871, Rouault was initially trained in stained glass, when he embarked on his academic training, admiring Gustave Moreua’s symbolisim. He remained disdainful of secular modernism and Parisian decadence, at one point turning his back on the city. In 1901 he visited the Catholic spiritualist novelist Joris Karl Huysmans at the Abbey of Liguge in Poitiers, where Huysmans sought to build a community of religious artists.

 
Rouault, Georges
Paris, France 1871-Paris, France 1958 Paris, France 1871-Paris, France 1958
Executioner’s Helper (Man Carrying the Beam of the Cross), from the Saures Passion Executioner’s Helper (Man Carrying the Beam of the Cross), from the Saures Passion
1936 1936
Sugar aquatint Sugar aquatint
plate: 31.1 cm x 21.5 cm; sheet: 44.5 cm x 31.6 cm
Gift of William J. Mastenbroek, 2007 Gift of William J. Mastenbroek, 2007
50-003

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