Rouault first came to prominence in 1905, when he displayed works at the exhibition that gave birth to the name Fauvism, a movement with which he shared an attraction to strong bold forms and striking color. Driven by deep religious convictions, Rouault was fascinated by those on the margins of society, and his works are filled with depictions of clowns, prostitutes, and, as here, theatrical characters. His highly personal technique, in which glowing colors are outlined with thick black was almost certainly inspired by his early apprenticeship to a painter of stained glass.
Heavily applied pigments, dense black outlines, and radiant hues are the hallmarks of Georges Rouault’s expressionistic style. In this Crucifixion scene—one of several painted by the artist in the long span of his career—these elements become visual metaphors for Christ’s sacrificed flesh, the torture he endured on the cross, and the promise of worldwide salvation through his ultimate resurrection. Rouault, a devout Catholic, also extended his study of human sorrow beyond religious imagery to depictions of modern society, as in his portrayals of melancholy clowns and downtrodden prostitutes.