But before addressing Rouault’s work and its relevance to the doctrine of the incarnation, I want to compare his work to that of surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Dali’s “Crucifixion” painting (right) depicts Christ on the cross, but notice that Dali’s Christ never actually touches the earth. Christ is an ethereal, otherworldly spectre removed from the earth He was sent to redeem.
Rouault’s work is markedly different in style and content. The style is known as “fauvism,” known for its beastly use of bold color and strong line. It is easy to notice the influence that working with stained glass had on this painter, as his paintings jump to life with large areas of bold color.
But for Rouault, Christ was not removed from this earth but an active participant within it. This is why many of his paintings depict prostitutes and even (surprisingly frequently) clowns. Clowns often are used in his work to represent the lower classes of society, the “least of these” that Jesus came to save – the poor and sinner alike.
Rouault therefore situates Christ in a vibrant world where He is actively engaged in the lives of those around Him, a fact made possible by virtue of the incarnation.