French expressionist and religious painter, whose pictures are frequently reminiscent of stained-glass windows.
Rouault was the son of a Paris cabinetmaker. At fourteen he became a stained-glass apprentice and then worked for a craftsman who restored glass in medieval church windows. At the same time Rouault did evening courses at the École des Arts Décoratifs. In 1891 he began to study at the École des Beaux Arts and through one of his teachers met Matisse, with whom he shared an interest in the power of colour. By 1903 he had turned from religious subjects to vigorously expressive paintings of prostitutes, entertainers, and social rejects – a change of direction that was controversial and to many contemporaries inexplicable in such a devout Catholic. In these paintings his use of colour within rough heavy outlines created a luminous effect similar to that of stained glass windows. In 1908 he added judges to his repertoire of subjects. It was not until 1940 that he returned to religious themes and after this date he received numerous honours.
As well as canvases he painted ceramics, and from 1914 to 1920 he engraved illustrations for books, such as Les Fleurs du mal. In addition he created designs for tapestry and for opera.