Head Of Christ by Georges Rouault (1937)

Head of Christ by Georges Rouault, The Cleveland Museum of Art

ISAIAH 53:4-5

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

RickThere are no images of Christ which are contemporary with his life with the possible exception of the Shroud of Turin.  That said, He has been depicted in art innumerably.  Each representation seeks to draw out inarticulable attributes, but His essence is uniformly only partially displayed.  How could it be otherwise?

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

Depictions of Christ’s face have been attempted again and again throughout the history of art. Many a painter has fixed his or her vision of Jesus on canvas, and most of the resulting paintings have tended toward the saccharine or the sentimental. Although such works may have their decorative or devotional purposes, few can be considered great works of art. Rouault’s Head of Christ is an exception. Its bright colors shine like panes of stained glass, luminous between the black outlines that separate them. It vibrates with tense energy but also radiates peace. The expression in the eyes of the Savior is particularly affecting. These are eyes that return the viewer’s gaze and penetrate into the deep interior of the soul; eyes that speak of love, of gentle compassion, and of forgiveness offered. This face is not the chiseled face of a remote divinity condescending to visit the human realm but rather the face of the God who has entered into our world and experienced firsthand all the pain and agony of the human condition.

Looking at this canvas, one feels understood by the One who looks back. Could anyone who hadn’t personally experienced the love of the suffering Savior have painted such a work?

How do you picture Jesus?

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R

Georges Rouault

(1871–1958). The French painter Georges Rouault is widely considered the greatest religious painter of the 20th century. His paintings of corrupt officials, of a serene Christ, and of sorrowful clowns have a powerful beauty. They express with great intensity his concern with moral issues and suffering humanity. In style his paintings are reminiscent of the stained-glass windows of medieval churches. Thick black lines, like the leading of such windows, break up and outline his forms, and his colors have a gemlike glow.

Georges-Henri Rouault was born on May 27, 1871, in a cellar in Paris, France, during a bombardment of that city by government forces attempting to overthrow the revolutionary Commune of Paris. Rouault’s father was a cabinetmaker, and at 14 the boy was apprenticed to a maker of stained glass. At 20 he quit his apprenticeship to enroll at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he studied painting until 1895.

Rouault was deeply influenced by the Roman Catholic writer Léon Bloy, who saw sin and misery in modern life. Many of the painter’s early works bitterly depict human corruption. His later work is marked more by pity and sorrow. Typical are The Old King, originally painted in 1916 and reworked by Rouault in 1936, Christ Mocked by the Soldiers (1932), and The Three Judges (1937–38).

Rouault’s renown as a printmaker resulted from the numerous series of prints and illustrations he created for Ambroise Vollard, a book publisher and the agent for Rouault’s work between 1916 and 1939. The book of prints entitled Miserere, showing the effects of war on men, is the most famous. Rouault died in Paris on Feb. 13, 1958.

Sources & Resources

“Rouault, Georges,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

Dyrness, William A. Rouault: A Vision of Suffering and Salvation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971.

Faerna, Jose Maria. Rouault. New York: Cameo-Abrams, 1997.

Flora, Holly, and Soo Yun Kang. Miserere et Guerre: The Anguished World of Shadows. New York: Museum of Biblical Art, 2006.

Maritain, Jacques. Rouault. New York: Abrams, 1954.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).


Terry Glaspey

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!


Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com


Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.