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Henri Rousseau (1844 - 1910)

The Sleeping Gypsy (1897) - Henri Rousseau (le Douanier) (4 ft 3 in x 6 ft 7 in, Museum of Modern Art, New York)


Henri Rousseau (May 21, 1844 - September 2, 1910) was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naive or Primitive manner. He is also known as Le Douanier ("the customs officer") after his place of employment. Ridiculed during his life, he is now seen as an untaught genius whose works are of the highest artistic quality.

After half a lifetime spent in menial employment, Rousseau took up painting as a hobby and attempted to assume the academic manner of establishment artists such as Bouguereau, but instead created works of charming, stylized fantasy. His ingenuousness was extreme, and he was not aware that establishment artists considered him untutored. In 1908 Picasso gave a banquet, half serious half burlesque, in his honor.

Rousseau is now best known for his jungle scenes, which he claimed were inspired by his non-existent travel in Mexico, but in fact his sources were illustrated books and visits to the zoo and botanical gardens in Paris. His work "The Sleeping Gypsy" (1897), which shows a lion musing over a sleeping man in eerie moonlight, is one of the best-known works of the modern era. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Rousseau, May 2004

Pablo Picasso on Henri Rousseau

To label Henri Rousseau as a naive painter is a great mistake. Picasso knew better and he did not. .*Picasso thought that Henri Rousseau was a modern painter. Rousseau thought of himself as a modern painter and once said to Picasso. "We are the two greatest painters of our time, you in the Egyptian style and I of the Modern style."

--If Picasso's understanding and respect for Henri Rousseau was a gauge of taste,was avant garde thought in action, or was an intuitive understanding for Rousseau's intrinsic value as an artist; then many more people and art historians would believe that Henri Rousseau was a great modern artist and not label him as a naive painter. Picasso trusted his own basic intuition for finding quality in art, and this intuition lead him to the "The Douanier" or "The Customs Officer".To label Henri Rousseau as a naive painter is a great mistake. Picasso knew better and he did not.

Picasso used progress made by Rousseau in his art, to enhance and bring out aspects that he was striving for within his own art. Picasso gave a much written about dinner in Rousseau's honor and owned a number of his paintings. Picasso said of Rousseau, "Rousseau represent the perfection of a certain kind of thought." C.Sutton ** **from page 243 of Pichon book.

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