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Femininity According to Georges Rouault, in Three Paintings By La Gazette Drouot

Aglaé and Anouchka are among the many female portraits that Georges Rouault painted – ranging from sex workers in the early years, whom he invited to warm up in his studio, to models and socialites late in his career. Aglaé is a mature work from the 1940s. During the war, Rouault left his studio on rue Martignac in Paris to take refuge in his country house in Beaumont-sur-Sarthe before fleeing to Golfe-Juan in June 1940. The artist carried on with the work he began in the 1930s, which ensured him financial security and a quiet life. Increasingly decorative colors blossomed in each of his paintings: still lifeslandscapesreligious scenes, and nudes. Beauty and femininity were now glorified. Rouault’s portraits feature soft lines, tender faces and vibrant light. While wide black outlines—traces of the Fauve years—are still present, they no longer dominate the compositions, where superimposed colors create depth and modeling. By placing his canvas flat on a table instead of an easel, he worked more than ever on the paint’s thickness and expressiveness. Rouault was partial to oil painting because it allowed him to use a lighter palette. Here, the beautiful harmony of blues contrasts with the red flower casually held up to the ear and the yellow garment.

According to Rouault’s descendants, Aglaé belonged to a group made for Aubusson tapestries, although no tapestry based on this painting is known. Dated c. 1940 and reproduced in the catalog Rouault, l’œuvre peint (vol. 3, no. OP2742), it was featured in exhibitions for over fifty years, from “Georges Rouault, Visionary” at the Beyeler Gallery in Basel in 1971 to “Georges Rouault, Painter of the Spirit” at the Villa Theo in Lavandou in 2023. Until now, the work was in the collection of the artist’s family, as were the two other female portraits accompanying it to Cannes. The sale also includes Anouchka, an ink and pastel on paper mounted on canvas (50 x 32 cm/19.68 x 12.59 in) that can be dated c. 1929-1930 due to its heavy black lines. Estimated €50,000/80,000, it has an astonishing frame painted by the artist. Girl with a Wide-Brimmed Hat(35 x 25 cm/13.77 x 9.84 in), a gouache on a print estimated €30,000/40,000 that was featured on the poster of the 2023 exhibition “Rouault au pays du père Ubu” at the Musée de l’Annonciade in Saint-Tropez, dates from several years earlier. It was made for the new edition of Alfred Jarry’s Réincarnations du Père Ubu, commissioned and published by Ambroise Vollard. While the book came out in 1932, Rouault had been working on it since 1916. He devoted many years to printmaking, creating monumental figures with structured, simplified forms and an architectural, powerful design: hieratic women, both modern and inspired by sacred art.

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