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Signed book, First edition

Georges ROUAULT Manuscrit autographe illustré de dessins originaux


Manuscrit autographe illustré de dessins originaux

s.d. [1918-1921], 26x31cm, 13 pages sur 9 feuillets. Relié..

n.d. [1918-1921], 26 x 31cm, 13 pages on 9 leaves. Bound.

“We make a silent art said the old [Nicolas]Poussin, indeed, we express ourselves with forms and colours”.

Original autograph manuscript by Georges Rouault illustrated with important original drawings in ink.
15 autograph pages in ink on 9 leaves mounted in an album. 4 compositions in ink and watercolour: the face of Christ, 2 sketches of naked women crossed out, one animal silhouette. Several mistakes, deletions, crossings out in ink, two paragraphs glued to the pages. First leaf frayed in the margins, discreet restoration to the inner margin of the first leaf.  Second cover of the original notebook preserved. Black cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

Unpublished version of the preface to his Souvenirs intimes (1927), likely written around 1918-1921 and missing from his published writings (Christine Gouzi, Soliloques d'un peintre. Georges Rouault, 2022).   
Exceptional manuscript by Georges Rouault, the undisputed master of modern sacred art, where writing becomes drawing and corrections transform into art. The 15-page unpublished text, sublimely corrected by great pen strikes is accompanied by 4 preparatory compositions in ink, certainly for his illustration of Fleurs du Mal [The Flowers of Evil] engraved in 1926, and for Miserere, his most famous set of prints made between 1917-1922. The manuscript contains one of his first studies of the Holy Face of Christ for Miserere,  emblematic image of his work, carrying within it all of Humanity's suffering.
A true outlet for the mystical painter, this sketchbook mixes personal reflections, considerations on art history and memories of the great artistic figures of the 19th century, with whom he has, for the most part, rubbed shoulders with: Degas, Cézanne, Gustave Moreau, Huysmans.

This extremely personal working manuscript was intended to introduce his greatest text, Souvenirs intimes, which was not published until 1927. It differs completely from the final text of the preface, which was not even written by him: “It is probable that [André] Suarès has rewritten the entire published preface. The tone and the writing are very different from those that the artist usually uses, particularly in several failed prefaces [...] Freer to contemporary eyes than that which was last chosen, they explain the painter's aims and the literary choices” (Christine Gozzi, Soliloques d'un peintre, p. 167). He exposes here his own truth about the great masters of painting who marked his debut at the Beaux-Arts, in Paris dominated by Ingres' painting.  The manuscript presents a great proximity of writing and themes with handwritten notebooks preserved at the Georges Rouault foundation dated 1918-1921 (ibid, p. XLVIII-XLIX).
Through this skilful mix between painter and writer, Rouault renews the Christian tradition of illuminated manuscripts, while being heir to centuries of sacred art, where the artist is a mirror of the divine. The manuscript's nervous handwriting centres on the works in ink, particularly a striking Holy Face on leaf no. 7, which is certainly one of the first studies of this motif for Miserere, his famous set of 58 black and grey chiaroscuro plates started during the darkest days of the First World War. One of his recent exhibitions even bears the name “Mystic Masque” (McMullen Museum of Art) which is unveiled here in this unpublished notebook: the divine features, surrounded by a halo not retained in the engravings, echo the veil of Saint Veronica (Et Véronique au tendre lin passe encore sur le chemin) or even his plate entitled Les ruines elles-mêmes ont péri, both published after many reworkings in 1948. The notebook brings together holiness and decadence through the features of a languishing woman (no. 6), recalling his illustrations of naked women for Fleurs du Mal, the masterpiece of a cursed artist to whom he felt close. The painter has blackened leaf 5 with text around an animal profile in ink, marked by moving lines. Radically opposed to the hieratic figures he is known for, it was not possible to identify in the artist's corpus this ink with fiery flat tints, almost reminiscent of Japanese art. On the back of the first leaf, a female silhouette is scarcely revealed through the vengeful brushstrokes of a perpetually dissatisfied Rouault.

Rouault himself confided in a letter to André Suarès how difficult it was to put the introduction to Souvenirs intimes into words (2 September 1925). The manuscript is full of pasted strips of paper and thick ink strokes, a real testimony to the inner struggle between the painter and the theorist: “I have neither preconceived nor materialist theories to triumph but try to be true. These artists have no link between them and have very diverse qualities, even opposites, with the exception of Cézanne, I have known them all [...] I have infinite respect for the work, the loving effort without a servile thought with regard to the greatest. I do not believe in new things, I still seek to live in the intimacy of the thoughts of the men with whom I am going to speak.”
Rouault's career, unparalleled in the modern era, excluded him from the artistic movements of his contemporaries and his predecessors. Strengthened by his position as an independent and unclassifiable artist, he speaks of a cohort of painters placed in the pantheon of the arts: “[...] I will not take into account these contingencies at all, having no concern to please or to displease. I desire myself, humble with regard to art, (without daring to believe it too much), an absolute frankness with regard to men however great they may be [...] From the point of view of my conscience as an artist, it is a debt that I believe I must pay. After the death of an artist, everything becomes so false, so misinterpreted, so distorted. I am but a witness and I provide documents to people stronger than myself, they will do with them what they want, and it goes to nothing if it is null, there is nothing I can do.”
In the manuscript, he establishes a true indictment against the old guard of the 19th century, and expresses very radical opinions that are absent from the published text, which will be a simple toned down dialogue, likely written by André Suarès.  Here Rouault contrasts his favourite painters - Moreau, Cézanne - with the most archaic of his contemporaries: “Cézanne, a romantic character in some ways, grotesque for the bourgeois, but touching for us the other artists [...] Cézanne associates inner man with nature by saying in two senses “Sursum Corda”; “For Gustave Moreau, when I speak about him [...] I essentially use particular notes taken during his life by me, precious intimacy and too flattering for me (I was going to spend two and sometimes three evenings per week with him) and a memory perhaps allowing me to better revive my beloved boss insofar as I am weakly able.” He vilifies Ingres “Ingres gives us his strong and sharp voluntary law to the point of Protestant rigorism of form and purification pushed to the point of mania!” and despised Degas' blind admiration for the latter, considering their obsession with line as an impasse of representation: “Degas seeks support in nature and in St Dominique Ingres. He is disappointed, takes revenge and throws his arrows at contemporaries; also he poses as little St Sebastian, all the ladies of the Salon judge him harshly, he does not care.” Although close to Catholic writers, he shows little regard for Huysmans' talents as an art critic: “Pour J. K. Huysmans la nature ne l'intéresse guère et il aime mieux regarder à son mur le Voyage en Egypte du vieux graveur Bresdin le Chien-Caillou que le moindre horizon de sa fenêtre.” “For J. K. Huysmans, nature is of little interest to him and he prefers to look on his wall at the Journey to Egypt by the old engraver Bresdin, the Chien-Caillou, than at the slightest horizon from his window.” 

Aesthetically striking manuscript with early sketches for Rouault's great engraved works, Miserere and Les Fleurs du Mal, revealing the talent of a painter – but also a gifted storyteller of the arts of his time. Rouault, who set about finding “a writing in painting” completes in this manuscript a perfect union of these two mediums, by the ink strokes where the hand of the painter and the writer become one. The manuscript represents a part of art history, with one of Rouault's first representations of Christ in majesty. 



Réf : 81450

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