Henri Rousseau

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Henri Rousseau



Introduction :
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau was a French post-impressionist painter in the Naïve or Primitive manner. He was also known as Le Douanier (the customs officer), a humorous description of his occupation as a toll and tax collector. He started painting seriously in his early forties; by age 49, he retired from his job to work on his art full-time.

Ridiculed during his lifetime by critics, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality. Rousseau's work exerted an extensive influence on several generations of avant-garde artists.

Rousseau was born in Laval, Mayenne, France, in 1844 into the family of a plumber; he was forced to work there as a small boy. He attended Laval High School as a day student, and then as a boarder after his father became a debtor and his parents had to leave the town upon the seizure of their house. Though mediocre in some of his high school subjects, Rousseau won prizes for drawing and music.

After high school, he worked for a lawyer and studied law, but "attempted a small perjury and sought refuge in the army." He served four years, starting in 1863. With his father's death, Rousseau moved to Paris in 1868 to support his widowed mother as a government employee.

In 1868, he married Clémence Boitard, his landlord's 15-year-old daughter, with whom he had six children (only one survived). In 1871, he was appointed as a collector of the octroi of Paris, collecting taxes on goods entering Paris. His wife died in 1888 and he married Josephine Noury in 1898.

Artworks :

Tiger in a Tropical Storm
Tiger in a Tropical Storm was exhibited in 1891, and Rousseau received his first serious review when the young artist Félix Vallotton wrote: "His tiger surprising its prey ought not to be missed; it's the alpha and omega of painting." Yet it was more than a decade before Rousseau returned to depicting his vision of jungles.

Year : 1891
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 130 cm × 162 cm (​511⁄8 in × ​633⁄4 in)


The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope
Following Scouts Attacked by a Tiger the previous year, The Hungry Lion was the second jungle painting to mark Rousseau's return to this genre after a 10-year hiatus caused by the generally negative reception to his 1891 painting Tiger in a Tropical Storm.

Year : exhibited in 1905
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 200 cm × 301 cm (​783⁄4 in × ​1181⁄2 in)


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