Georges Rouault’s (Un)popular clown paintings

Price, Jason (2018) Georges Rouault’s (Un)popular clown paintings. Early Popular Visual Culture. ISSN 1746-0654 (Accepted)

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During the long career of French painter Georges Rouault (1871-1958), the artist is known to have created around 170 paintings featuring images of popular entertainers, most often circus performers and clowns. Painted in the artist’s signature ‘messy’ style, the clowns depicted often appear out of their performative context and in an unhappy state that seems incongruous with their character. This article makes a case that such an approach falls under the category of (un)popular art, which occurs when artists appropriate and then dismantle popular images in order to construct works of high art. The author argues that while the artist’s aesthetic clearly oversees a shift in the cultural status of the clown from popular to elite art, the effects of Rouault’s expressionism are strongly dependent upon acknowledging the popular dimensions of the work. Reconceptualising the exchanges between certain cultural forms, such as those between popular culture forms and the avant-garde, as (un)popular offers a productive way of foregrounding the essential contribution popular culture has made to elite culture, and helps redress the historical prejudices which have established the popular as antithetical to works of high art.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Georges Rouault; popular culture; clowns; pierrots; low art; high art
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Research in Creative and Performing Arts
Subjects: M Music. Literature on music. Musical instruction and study > ML Literature on music > ML0159 History and criticism > ML0430 Composition and performance
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR > N5300 History > N6350 Modern art > N6447 19th and 20th centuries
N Fine Arts > ND Painting > ND1470 Technique and materials
Depositing User: Jason Price
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2018 17:17
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2018 17:17

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