Art News

"Georges Rouault: Circus of the Shooting Star" at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts

artwork: Georges Rouault (1871-1958) - "Parade", 1907 - Courtesy of The Art Appreciation Foundation

SALT LAKE CITY, UT.- The Utah Museum of Fine Arts presents Georges Rouault: Cirque de l’Etoile Filante (Circus of the Shooting Star), an exhibition of etchings and wood engravings organized by the Syracuse University Art Galleries. The exhibition, which will be on view in the UMFA Emma Eccles Jones Education Gallery from February 3rd to May 13th, encourages adults and children to explore circus themes through art, art making, and programs. French artist Georges Rouault (1871-1958) was fascinated by the world of the circus, a place where superficial spectacle was often underscored by the performers’ sadness. From 1926-1938 Rouault worked with Parisian art dealer and publisher Ambrose Vollard to write and create an illustrated book project called Cirque de l’Etoile Filante (Circus of the Shooting Star).

artwork: Georges Rouault - Original etching and aquatint printed in colors on Montval laid paper, signed with the artist's monograms "1934 GR".The portfolio includes an introduction of 17 color etchings with aquatint, followed by 82 wood engravings illustrating the text. Rouault intended to strip away the “spangles” of the clown’s costume and reveal the “reflection of paradise lost,” adding a humanizing element to a subject that had been represented in art since antiquity.

Rouault associates a lot with other artists, including Matisse and Marquet, whom he had met during their studies at Gustave Moreau’s studio at the École des Beaux Arts. The creators of alternative art, whose pictures are barred from the official Academy of Arts exhibitions, they founded the Salon d’Automne, the first exhibition of which opened on October 31, 1903, at Petit Palais in Paris. In 1905 Rouault contributed his pictures of the circus and girls to the Salon des Independents. He was referred to as a Fauvist, yet he retained an individual style of his own. In 1906 Rouault exhibited at the Galérie Berthe Weill. In 1907 Ambroise Vollard suggested that Rouault make designer faience pieces.

During the Second World War and the postwar period in the solitude of his studio Rouault concentrates on the play of lines, shapes and colors and finishes a large number of important works. More and more his works reflect his dreamlike interior world, and his painting becomes more spiritual and elevated.

artwork: French artist Georges Rouault was fascinated by the world of the circus. Photo: Courtesy of Syracuse University Art Collection.Rouault captured the essence of the circus in his artwork with thick black lines, jewel-tone colors, and curvilinear forms. Often categorized as a Fauvist or Expressionist artist, Rouault’s artistic style was influenced by his early apprenticeship in a stained glass studio and his interest in medieval art. He believed that form, color and harmony were hallmarks of the circus, and he strove to create a similar energy in his illustrated book.

“My favorite thing about this exhibition is the way it shows the dual nature of the circus,” says Jenny Woods, UMFA museum services liaison. “At first glance you see the bright colors, the acrobats and the costumes; but when you look closer, especially at the portraits of performers, you see personalities and a range of emotions–sadness, boredom, longing and love.”

In the last years of his life Rouault enjoyed well-deserved recognition. He exhibits successfully at the 1948 Venice Biennale. The Centre Catholique des Intellectuels Français celebrates his eightieth birthday at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris in 1951 while the government promotes him to the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honor.  When Rouault dies in February 1958, he is given a state funeral.

At the UMFA, Georges Rouault: Circus of the Shooting Star will feature all 17 aquatint etchings and a selection of 18 wood engravings from the portfolio. Families may explore the exhibition by using a special gallery guide, making clown or ballerina puppets in the gallery, and putting on their own circus with a special puppet theater.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is Utah’s primary cultural resource for global visual arts. It is unique in its dual role as a university and state art museum. It is Utah’s only visual arts institution that collects, exhibits, interprets, and preserves a comprehensive collection of original art objects. Visit :