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Henri Rousseau – Naive French Post-Impressionist



Henri Rousseau – Naive French Post-Impressionist  was a truly unique artist whose influence on the painters to follow, particularly Henri Matisse was enormous.

Before Rousseau, there was no style of painting that could be classified as “naive” , “primitive, or “not impressionist.”In fact, it was Rousseau, through his completely natural expression who created it.

To say Rousseau was underappreciated during his lifetime would be an understatement. He was frequently ridiculed for his  “childlike” style. Even more sadly, as a simple man – that is to say not an intellectual, he often interpreted sarcastic critical remarks as praise.

However, the praise did come. But precious little during his lifetime. And only at the end.

Curiously, although Rousseau is most widely known for his Jungle scenes, he never left France. The jungles, the tigers, and the exotic vegetation of his canvas’ sprang solely from his imagination. Inspired by visits to the  tropical indoor  gardens and conservatories of Paris.

The web Museum of Paris has more on the life of  Naive French Post Impressionist Herni Rousseau:

Rousseau, Henri, known as Le Douanier Rousseau (1844-1910). French painter, the most celebrated of naïve artists.

His nickname refers to the job he held with the Paris Customs Office (1871-93), although he never actually rose to the rank of `Douanier’ (Customs Officer). Before this he had served in the army, and he later claimed to have seen service in Mexico, but this story seems to be a product of his imagination. He took up painting as a hobby and accepted early retirement in 1893 so he could devote himself to art.

His character was extraordinarily ingenuous and he suffered much ridicule (although he sometimes interpreted sarcastic remarks literally and took them as praise) as well as enduring great poverty. However, his faith in his own abilities never wavered. He tried to paint in the academic manner of such traditionalist artists as Bouguereau and Gérôme, but it was the innocence and charm of his work that won him the admiration of the avant-garde: in 1908 Picasso gave a banquet, half serious half burlesque, in his honor. Rousseau is now best known for his jungle scenes, the first of which is Surprised! (Tropical Storm with a Tiger) (National Gallery, London, 1891) and the last The Dream (MOMA, New York, 1910). These two paintings are works of great imaginative power, in which he showed his extraordinary ability to retain the utter freshness of his vision even when working on a large scale and with loving attention to detail. He claimed such scenes were inspired by his experiences in Mexico, but in fact his sources were illustrated books and visits to the zoo and botanical gardens in Paris.

His other work ranges from the jaunty humor of The Football Players (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1908) to the mesmeric, eerie beauty of The Sleeping Gypsy (MOMA, 1897). Rousseau was buried in a pauper’s grave, but his greatness began to be widely acknowledged soon after his death.

Photographs by Mark Harden.

ImageThe Sleeping Gypsy
1897 (70 Kb); Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 200.7 cm (51″ x 6’7″); The Museum of Modern Art, New York

ImageEclaireur attaqué par un tigre (Scout Attacked by a Tiger)
1904 (130 Kb); Oil on canvas, 120.5 x 162 cm (47 3/8 x 63 3/4 in); The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania

ImageFemme se promenant dans une foret exotique (Woman Walking in an Exotic Forest)
1905 (180 Kb); Oil on canvas, 99.9 x 80.7 cm (39 3/8 x 31 3/4 in); The Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania

ImagePortrait of Joseph Brummer
1909 (160 Kb); Oil on canvas, 116 x 88.5 cm (45 5/8 x 34 3/4 in); Private collection

ImageCombat of a Tiger and a Buffalo
1909 (220 Kb); Oil on canvas, 46 x 55 cm (18 1/8 x 21 5/8 in); Hermitage, St. Petersburg

ImageThe Dream
1910 (160 Kb); Oil on canvas, 6′ 8 1/2″ x 9′ 9 1/2″; The Museum

Read more about Henri Rousseau- Naive French Post-Impressionist HERE.