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Title: Georges Roualt's modernism and the question of materiality
Author: Johnson, Jennifer
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 1508
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The central concern of my thesis is to bring into focus the problematic relation between Georges Rouault's (1871-1958) pictorial vocabulary and his subject matter: on the one hand, abstract mark-making and on the other, a refusal to cede to abstraction or formalism through an insistence that these marks remain yoked to representation. The result is an examination a way of painting that embraces its state of uncertainty, which interrogates its own construction, and strains against the very materiality it simultaneously celebrates. Chapter one traces the critical reaction to Rouault's painting in the early years of the twentieth century, which was at best mystification, and at worst, disgust. This chapter also analyses the thick painterly terms of these paintings and their resistance to conventional meaning, arguing that there are parallels between Rouault's project and contemporary experimental forms of art and literature within modernism. Chapter two continues this exploration, attending to the various relationships between surface and depth that are interrogated by Rouault's canvases. These relationships reveal the deep philosophical and theological questions at stake Rouault's painting. Chapter three explores a theological reading of Rouault's work beginning with the aesthetics of his associate, the French Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain - a reading that shows how painting can be true to its material conditions and strain towards a higher, albeit obscure, form of knowledge. Against this, the last chapter argues that the paintings also support the possibility of a bleaker world-view, aligned with Dostoyevsky's kenotic theology, in which matter potentially overwhelms the possibility of transcendental meaning. In conclusion, I argue that Rouault's painting interrogates the vocabulary of modernism and presents the 'fallen' or 'wounded' state of a painting that acknowledges its material conditions.
Supervisor: Wright, Alistair Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modernism (Aesthetics)