Henri Rousseau
Overview
 
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau (ɑ̃ʁi ʒyljɑ̃ feliks ruso) (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) was a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 Post-Impressionist
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1910 to describe the development of French art since Manet. Fry used the term when he organized the 1910 exhibition Manet and Post-Impressionism...

 painter in the Naïve
Naïve art
Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true...

 or Primitive
Primitivism
Primitivism is a Western art movement that borrows visual forms from non-Western or prehistoric peoples, such as Paul Gauguin's inclusion of Tahitian motifs in paintings and ceramics...

 manner. He was also known as Le Douanier (the customs officer), a humorous description of his occupation as a toll
Tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

 collector. Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality.
Henri Rousseau was born in Laval, France in the Loire Valley
Loire Valley
The Loire Valley , spanning , is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises approximately . It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, asparagus, and...

 into the family of a tinsmith.
Encyclopedia
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau (ɑ̃ʁi ʒyljɑ̃ feliks ruso) (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) was a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 Post-Impressionist
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism is the term coined by the British artist and art critic Roger Fry in 1910 to describe the development of French art since Manet. Fry used the term when he organized the 1910 exhibition Manet and Post-Impressionism...

 painter in the Naïve
Naïve art
Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true...

 or Primitive
Primitivism
Primitivism is a Western art movement that borrows visual forms from non-Western or prehistoric peoples, such as Paul Gauguin's inclusion of Tahitian motifs in paintings and ceramics...

 manner. He was also known as Le Douanier (the customs officer), a humorous description of his occupation as a toll
Tariff
A tariff may be either tax on imports or exports , or a list or schedule of prices for such things as rail service, bus routes, and electrical usage ....

 collector. Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality.

Background

Henri Rousseau was born in Laval, France in the Loire Valley
Loire Valley
The Loire Valley , spanning , is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises approximately . It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, asparagus, and...

 into the family of a tinsmith. He attended Laval High School as a day student and then as a boarder, after his father became a debtor and his parents had to leave the town upon the seizure of their house. He was mediocre in some subjects at the high school but won prizes for drawing and music. He worked for a lawyer and studied law, but "attempted a small perjury and sought refuge in the army," serving for four years, starting in 1863. With his father's death, Rousseau moved to Paris in 1868 to support his widowed mother as a government employee. In 1868, he married Clémence Boitard, his landlord's 15 year-old daughter, with whom he had six children (only one survived). In 1871, he was appointed as a collector of the octroi
Octroi
Octroi is a local tax collected on various articles brought into a district for consumption.-Antiquity:Octroi taxes have a respectable antiquity, being known in Roman times as vectigalia...

 tax on goods entering Paris. His wife died in 1888 and he married Josephine Noury in 1898. He started painting seriously in his early forties, and by age 49 he retired from his job to work on his art full time.

Rousseau claimed he had "no teacher other than nature", although he admitted he had received "some advice" from two established Academic painters
Academic art
Academic art is a style of painting and sculpture produced under the influence of European academies of art. Specifically, academic art is the art and artists influenced by the standards of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts, which practiced under the movements of Neoclassicism and Romanticism,...

, Félix Auguste Clément and Jean-Léon Gérôme
Jean-Léon Gérôme
Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as Academicism. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits and other subjects, bringing the Academic painting tradition to an artistic climax.-Life:Jean-Léon Gérôme was born...

. Essentially he was self-taught and is considered to be a naïve or primitive painter.

Paintings

His best known paintings depict jungle scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. Stories spread by admirers that his army service included the French expeditionary force to Mexico
French intervention in Mexico
The French intervention in Mexico , also known as The Maximilian Affair, War of the French Intervention, and The Franco-Mexican War, was an invasion of Mexico by an expeditionary force sent by the Second French Empire, supported in the beginning by the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain...

 are unfounded. His inspiration came from illustrated books and the botanical gardens in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, as well as tableaux of taxidermied wild animals. He had also met soldiers, during his term of service, who had survived the French expedition to Mexico and listened to their stories of the subtropical country they had encountered. To the critic Arsène Alexandre, he described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes
Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. It is one of seven departments of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle. It is situated in the 5ème arrondissement, Paris, on the left bank of the river Seine and covers 28 hectares .- Garden plan :The grounds of the Jardin des...

: "When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream."

Along with his exotic scenes there was a concurrent output of smaller topographical images of the city and its suburbs.

He claimed to have invented a new genre of portrait landscape, which he achieved by starting a painting with a view such as a favourite part of the city, and then depicting a person in the foreground.

Criticism and recognition

Rousseau's flat, seemingly childish style was disparaged by many critics; people often were shocked by his work or ridiculed it. His ingenuousness was extreme, and he always aspired, in vain, to conventional acceptance. Many observers commented that he painted like a child, but the work shows sophistication with his particular technique.

From 1886, he exhibited regularly in the Salon des Indépendants, and, although his work was not placed prominently, it drew an increasing following over the years. Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!) was exhibited in 1891, and Rousseau received his first serious review, when the young artist Félix Vallotton
Félix Vallotton
Félix Edouard Vallotton was a Swiss painter and printmaker associated with Les Nabis. He was an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut.-Life and work:...

 wrote: "His tiger surprising its prey ought not to be missed; it's the alpha and omega of painting." Yet it was more than a decade before Rousseau returned to depicting his vision of jungles.

In 1893, Rousseau moved to a studio in Montparnasse
Montparnasse
Montparnasse is an area of Paris, France, on the left bank of the river Seine, centred at the crossroads of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Rue de Rennes, between the Rue de Rennes and boulevard Raspail...

 where he lived and worked until his death in 1910. During 1897, he produced one of his most famous paintings, La Bohémienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy
The Sleeping Gypsy
The Sleeping Gypsy is an 1897 oil painting by French Naïve artist Henri Rousseau. The fantastical depiction of a lion musing over a sleeping woman on a moonlit night is one of the most recognizable artworks of modern times.Rousseau first exhibited the painting at the 13th Salon des Indépendants,...

).

During 1905, a large jungle scene The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope
The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope
The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope is a large oil-on-canvas painting created by Henri Rousseau in 1905...

was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants near works by younger leading avant-garde artists such as Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter...

 in what is now seen as the first showing of The Fauves
Fauvism
Fauvism is the style of les Fauves , a short-lived and loose group of early twentieth-century Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism...

. Rousseau's painting may even have influenced the naming of the Fauves.

In 1907, he was commissioned by artist Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. His later works were more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee...

's mother, Berthe, Comtesse de Delaunay, to paint The Snake Charmer.

When Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

 happened upon a painting by Rousseau being sold on the street as a canvas to be painted over, the younger artist instantly recognised Rousseau's genius and went to meet him. In 1908 Picasso held a half serious, half burlesque banquet in his studio in Le Bateau-Lavoir
Le Bateau-Lavoir
Le Bateau-Lavoir is a name which French painter Max Jacob coined for an area at the top of the steps leading to No. 13 Rue Ravigan, in Montmartre, Paris . The area is famous in art history because around the start of the 20th century a group of outstanding artists lived and rented artistic studios...

in Rousseau's honour.

After Rousseau's retirement in 1893, he supplemented his small pension with part-time jobs and work such as playing a violin in the streets. He also worked briefly at Le petit journal, where he produced a number of its covers.
Rousseau exhibited his final painting, The Dream, at the 1910 Salon des Independants a few months before his death on 2 September 1910 in the Hospital Necker in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. At his funeral, seven friends stood at his grave in the Cimetière de Bagneux
Cimetière de Bagneux
Located to the southwest of the city of Paris, France, the Cimetière de Bagneux is located at 44, avenue Marx-Dormoy, in Montrouge, Hauts-de-Seine....

: the painters Paul Signac
Paul Signac
Paul Signac was a French neo-impressionist painter who, working with Georges Seurat, helped develop the pointillist style.-Biography:Paul Victor Jules Signac was born in Paris on 11 November 1863...

 and Manuel Ortiz de Zárate
Manuel Ortiz de Zárate
Manuel Ortiz de Zárate Pinto was a Chilean painter.Born Manuel Revuelta Ortiz de Zárate Pinto in Como, Italy, he was the son of Chilean composer Eleodoro Ortiz de Zárate and of María Cristina Pinto Errázuriz...

, the artist couple Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. His later works were more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee...

 and Sonia Terk
Sonia Delaunay
Sonia Delaunay was a Jewish-French artist who, with her husband Robert Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. Her work extends to painting, textile design and stage set design...

, the sculptor Brâncuşi
Constantin Brancusi
Constantin Brâncuşi was a Romanian-born sculptor who made his career in France. As a child he displayed an aptitude for carving wooden farm tools. Formal studies took him first to Bucharest, then to Munich, then to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris...

, Rousseau's landlord Armand Queval and Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire
Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, known as Guillaume Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother....

 who wrote the epitaph Brâncuşi put on the tombstone:

We salute you Gentle Rousseau you can hear us.
Delaunay, his wife, Monsieur Queval and myself.
Let our luggage pass duty free through the gates of heaven.
We will bring you brushes paints and canvas.
That you may spend your sacred leisure in the
light and Truth of Painting.
As you once did my portrait facing the stars, lion and the gypsy.

Legacy

Rousseau's work exerted an "extensive influence ... on several generations of vanguard artists, starting with Picasso and including Jean Hugo
Jean Hugo
Victor Jean Hugo is a South African professional golfer.Hugo matriculated at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 1994 and graduated three years later with a BA Degree from the University of Stellenbosch prior to becoming a professional golfer...

, Léger
Fernand Léger
Joseph Fernand Henri Léger was a French painter, sculptor, and filmmaker. In his early works he created a personal form of Cubism which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style...

, Beckmann
Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann was a German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement...

 and the Surrealists," according to Roberta Smith, an art critic writing in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

. "Beckmann’s amazing self-portraits, for example, descend from the brusque, concentrated forms of Rousseau’s portrait of the writer Pierre Loti
Pierre Loti
Pierre Loti was a French novelist and naval officer.-Biography:Loti's education began in his birthplace, Rochefort, Charente-Maritime. At the age of seventeen he entered the naval school in Brest and studied at Le Borda. He gradually rose in his profession, attaining the rank of captain in 1906...

".

The visual style of Michel Ocelot
Michel Ocelot
Michel Ocelot is a French writer, character designer, storyboard artist and director of animated films and television programs and a former president of the International Animated Film Association...

's 1998 animation film Kirikou and the Sorceress
Kirikou and the Sorceress
Kirikou and the Sorceress is a 1998 Franco-Belgian animated film written and directed by Michel Ocelot. Drawn directly from West African folk tales, it tells of how a newborn boy saves his village by ridding them of the evil witch Karaba...

is partly inspired by Rousseau, particularly the depiction of the jungle vegetation.

Critics have noted the influence of Rousseau on Wallace Stevens's poetry. See for instance Stevens's Floral Decorations for Bananas
Floral Decorations for Bananas
"Floral Decorations for Bananas" is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium . It was first published Measure 26 "Floral Decorations for Bananas" is a poem from Wallace Stevens's first book of poetry, Harmonium (1923). It was first published Measure 26 "Floral Decorations for...

in the collection Harmonium
Harmonium (poetry collection)
Harmonium is a book of poetry by U.S. poet Wallace Stevens. His first book, it was published in 1923 by Knopf in an edition of 1500 copies. He was in middle age at that time, forty-four years old. The collection comprises 85 poems, ranging in length from just a few lines to several hundred...

.

One of his works was used to be an inspiration for the animated film Madagascar
Madagascar (2005 film)
Madagascar is a 2005 computer-animated film produced by DreamWorks Animation, and released in movie theaters on May 27, 2005. The film tells the story of four Central Park Zoo animals who have spent their lives in blissful captivity and are unexpectedly shipped back to Africa, getting shipwrecked...

.

The song The Jungle Line by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell, CC is a Canadian musician, singer songwriter, and painter. Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in her native Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and dives of Toronto...

 is based upon a Rousseau painting.

Exhibitions

In 1911, a retrospective exhibition of Rousseau's works was shown at the Salon des Indépendants. His paintings were also shown at the first Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter was a group of artists from the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany. The group was founded by a number of Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and native German artists, such as Franz Marc, August Macke and...

 exhibition.

Two major museum exhibitions of his work were held in 1984–85 (in Paris, at the Grand Palais; and in New York, at the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

) and in 2001 (Tübingen, Germany). "These efforts countered the persona of the humble, oblivious naïf by detailing his assured single-mindedness and tracked the extensive influence his work exerted on several generations of vanguard artists," critic Roberta Smith wrote in a review of a later exhibition.

A major exhibition of his work, "Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris," was shown at Tate Modern
Tate Modern
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in London, England. It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group . It is the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, with around 4.7 million visitors per year...

 from November 2005 for four months, organised by the Tate and the Musée d’Orsay
Musée d'Orsay
The Musée d'Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture,...

, where the show also appeared. The exhibition, encompassing 49 of his paintings, was on display at the National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden is a national art museum, located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, in Washington, DC...

 in Washington from July 16–October 15, 2006.

A major collection of Rousseau's work were shown at The Grand Palais
Grand Palais
This article contains material abridged and translated from the French and Spanish Wikipedia.The Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, commonly known as the Grand Palais , is a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France...

 from March 15 to June 19, 2006.

Books on Rousseau

  • The Banquet Years, by Roger Shattuck (includes an extensive Rousseau essay)
  • Henri Rousseau, 1979, Dora Vallier (general illustrated essay)
  • Henri Rousseau, 1984, The Museum of Modern Art New York (essays by Roger Shattuck, Henri Béhar, Michel Hoog, Carolyn Lanchner, and William Rubin; includes excellent color plates and analysis)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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