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The Reframing of Deeply Spiritual Work By Georges Rouault

March 16, 2022

2 minute read

George Roualut’s Portrait of Christ

Lowy is pleased to have recently had the opportunity to restore and frame Portrait of Christ by the 20th century French painter Georges Henri Rouault for a private client. This Portrait of Christ, likely dating from the 1930s, is an example of Rouault’s works depicting Christ and scenes from the life of Christ that he increasingly focused on after World War I. Throughout his career, he also created many works depicting clowns and the cirque as well as prostitutes and misfits. A devout Catholic and deeply moral, Roualt’s paintings frequently aimed to convey a spiritual message.

A favorite student of Gustave Moreau and influenced by the German expressionists, Rouault exhibited in the fine arts in Paris, France alongside other Parisian artists like Matisse and the Fauves but differed from the Fauvists in style. His frequent depictions of macabre images of prostitutes and clowns were not decorative, but rather intense raw expressive images. His roman catholic upbringing became the subject matter of his later works, like that of the Portrait of Christ.

Having apprenticed at an early age to stain-glass makers and restorers, Rouault developed a unique style characterized by heavy black lines, glowing jewel-toned colors, and thick layered heavy impasto.  He often depicted light emanating from inside his images which appeared similar to the luminosity of glass. These techniques added to the intensity of his works.

Georges Rouault, Portrait of Christ, Oil on Panel, 21 ⅛ x 16 ⅝ inches – unframed

Portrait of Christ was painted on cardboard support that had become warped, unstable, and oxidized. Our team first gave the artwork a humidity treatment on our hot vacuum table to carefully relax the distortions and then mounted it to an acid-free archival board for additional support and to improve its structural integrity.


Portrait of Christ framed in 17th Century Italian hand-carved and gilt frame with ebonized panels


To complement the raw expressive feeling of the artwork and create a dramatic presentation, Lowy selected an antique 17th-century Italian hand-carved and gilt frame with ebonized panels.

The black panels and dark aged patina of the frame echo the expressionism and heavy black outlines and rich palette of the composition while the carvings enhance the expressive brushwork used by the artist. The client was thrilled with the result.