Henri Rousseau: naive storyteller or light primitive

Henri Rousseau Apes in the Orange Grove (1910)
Apes in the Orange Grove (1910)

Henri Rousseau (born May 21, 1844 – died September 2, 1910) was an artist who worked in the primitivist genre, an amateur whose paintings were admired by his contemporaries-impressionists. It is Henri Rousseau who owes recognition to the “naive art” that has existed since ancient times.

Henri Rousseau painted pictures filled with color. His paintings are captivating, charming and, like a gentle melody, imperceptibly immerse the viewer in dreams. Tropical landscapes, jungles of amazing beauty – freedom of fantasy, flying on the waves of juicy, pure shades.

Henri Rousseau Black Man Attacked by a Jaguar (1910)
Black Man Attacked by a Jaguar (1910)

Biography of Henri Rousseau

Born May 21, 1844 in French Laval, Henri belonged to a poor family – the master’s father was just a plumber. Very little is known about the youth and youth of the artist. For some time he served in Mexico City, in the French army, where he held the position of regimental musician. Then, having retired, he began to study painting.

Rousseau is one of those sparkling diamonds that, despite everything – lack of education, position, patrons, the right environment – rise to the surface from the gloomy depths of society and shine brighter than the sun. Rousseau learned to draw himself, along the way worked in the tax office, for which he received the nickname Customs Officer (Le Douanier). The nickname became his pseudonym, known to the whole world.

Henri Rousseau Carnival evening (1885-1886)
Carnival evening (1885-1886)

Customs Officer

The artist began painting while still being a customs worker. 15 years of service at the customs. His popularity rose at lightning speed, but the master studied for a long time – the first of his works date back to 75-77 years of the XIX century.

Henri Rousseau Centennial of Independence (1892
Centennial of Independence (1892)

In 1884, when Henri received permission to visit the Louvre, he began to copy pictures of the old masters. A year later, his paintings appeared at the Salon. In 1885, Rousseau was already over forty, and the audience of the Salon des Indépendants accepted him … ambiguously. Someone laughed at the middle-aged primitivist, but Paul Gauguin (Paul Gauguin) and Camille Pissarro (Camille Pissarro), who were at the exhibition, were completely delighted.

Was he really as naive as his paintings? Probably not. Rousseau was a member of the Masonic Order and, on occasion, could strike the interlocutor with a well-aimed word on the spot. Are these not signs of the greatest mind habitually hiding behind the mask of a simpleton? Rousseau died of gangrene at the very beginning of the autumn of 1910, on September 2.

Henri Rousseau Scout Attacked by a Tiger (1904)
Scout Attacked by a Tiger (1904)
Self Portrait from L'ile Saint Louis (1890)
Self Portrait from L’ile Saint Louis (1890)
The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope (1905)
The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope (1905)
The Mill (1896)
The Mill (1896)
The Muse Inspiring the Poet (1908-1909)
The Muse Inspiring the Poet (1908-1909)
The Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the Sunset (1910)
The Seine and the Eiffel Tower in the Sunset (1910)
Tropical Forest with Apes and Snake (1910)
Tropical Forest with Apes and Snake (1910)
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