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Henri Rousseau, the customs officer who became a Master

11 avril 2016

Mocked for a long time for his childlike paintings, his poorly mastered perspectives and his colors not quite nuanced, Henri Rousseau is nevertheless regarded today as one of the inspiration of Modern Art many giants like Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Gauguin, and Pablo Picasso.

Customs officer on the Seine

Henri Rousseau has opened his eyes on the world in 1844 in Laval. Born into a modest family, the son of a tinsmith tries unsuccessfully to law school before committing in the 51th Infantry Regiment of Angers to escape the reformatory after a theft. Released by the army in 1868, he came to Paris where, after working as bailiffs clerk, he entered to the Grant on the banks of the Seine. This customs agency then collects taxes on goods sailing in the capital by the river. Solitaire by force of circumstance, he his two wives and eight of his nine children, Henri Rousseau is approaching forty years old when he comes to painting.

A stationary passenger

Without any artistic training or academic knowledge, Henri Rousseau became familiar with Art in the halls of the Louvre, where he obtained a copyist card. When he traces his first brush strokes, he began producing artworks with high exotic content. 

(Typical jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau)

Although he never really left Paris, his paintings mostly represent exuberant tropical jungles which are often staged animal fights between a beast and its prey. Inspired by what he saw during his excursions in... « Jardins des Plantes » and « Jardin d'Acclimation » in Paris or even in the colorful pages of botanical journals of his time, Henri Rousseau invents and dreams a world where he has been.

Sunday painter

In 1886, he appears for the first time at the Salon des Independants and exhibits four of his paintings. Far from unanimous, Rousseau is critiziced for his frozen characters, his lack of perspective, his vivid colors, his awkwardness and childish naivete. Called an amateur painter, a child or an insane, criticism even mock himself by using the nickname affectionately given by his friend and writer Alfred Jarry: Le Douanier Rousseau. Far from being discouraged, he persisted, became friends with Robert Delaunay, Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso and continues his exhibitions at the Salon des Independents until he catches the eye of avant-garde painters.

Naive art, surrealism, fauvism and abstraction

At the end of his life, le Douanier Rousseau starts receiving positive reviews and it was after his death in 1910, at the age of 66 years, that his work was considered the founder of naive Art in particular.

(Guerre of Rousseau and Guernica of Picasso)

This approach of painting is a style that does not meet the academic standards and the pictorial research of the time. His colorful artworks also inspired the Fauvist as Derain and Matisse, his primitive faces were a based to surrealist and even Kandinsky, the father of abstraction, says about him "Henri Rousseau opened the way to new opportunities for simplicity "

Henri Rousseau or how a modest customs officer inspired the great masters of modern art.

From March 22 to July 17, 2016, find out an exhibition about Henri Rousseau at the Musée d'Orsay.

Gustavo Ortiz, between naivety and surrealism

From Argentina, the Carré d'artistes® artist of the week Gustavo Ortiz fall into the world of art following a school trip where he attended a retrospective of the Catalan surrealist Joan Miró. After studying art, he flies to Santiago where, for 7 years, he expresses his creative desires in his paintings. A experience long enaugh to launch in Europe where he flew to London to pursue his artistic adventure. His style is characterized by the force of colors, the clearness of edges and the use of collage as a main technique. He paints reduced landscapes, populated by disproportionate characters or objects. His paintings reveal elements of naïve Art punctuated with unexpected surrealism.