Henri Rousseau Biography | Oil Paintings
5-21-1844 Laval, FRA - 9-2-1910 Paris, FRABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
The most famous of all Naive artists, Henri Rousseau came from a poor background and he went through a succession of menial jobs, before turning to art late in life. Among other things, he was a clerk, a soldier, and a toll-collector. While working as the latter, he began painting as a hobby in his early forties and, in 1893, he took an early retirement at age 49, in order to pursue his artistic ambitions. After Rousseau's retirement, he supplemented his small pension with part-time jobs and work such as playing the violin in the streets beside doing his paintings. When Pablo Picasso happened upon a painting by Henri Rousseau being sold on the street as a canvas to be painted over, the younger artist recognized Rousseau's genius and went to meet him.
Henri Rousseau was self-taught, although he did take advice from Academic artists such as Felix Clément and Jean-Leon Gérome. Although he never left traveled outside of France or saw a real jungle, his best-known oil paintings are of jungle scenes, many of the individual elements in his pictures are copied from book illustrations, using a mechanical device called a pantograph. But it was his dreamlike combination of images and his intuitive sense of color which gave his art its unique appeal. Many observers commented that he painted like a child, but the work shows sophistication with this particular technique.
Henri Rousseau began exhibiting his paintings from the mid-1880s, using avant-garde bodies such as the Salon des Indépendants, for the simple reason that they had no selection committee. He never achieved great success, but his guileless personality won him many friends in the art world, among them Picasso, Apollinaire, and Delaunay.
In 1908, Picasso held a half serious, half burlesque banquet in his studio at Le Bateau-Lavoir in Rousseau's honor. His work was an important influence on the Surrealists.
Art Movement: Folk Naïve Art.
Artists Influencing Henri Rousseau: Felix Clément, Jean-Leon Gérome.
Painters Henri Rousseau Influenced: Pablo Picasso, Jean Hugo, Fernand Léger, Jean Metzinger, Max Beckmann.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.