Tuesday, May 21, 2013
May 21 - Henri Rousseau
Artist Henri Rousseau was born on May 21, 1844, in the Loire region of France. His father was a plumber. In 1871, he was appointed a toll collector on goods entering Paris, and later was fancifully known as "Le Douanier" (customs agent), though he was never more than a clerk. He started painting seriously in his early forties, and by age 49 he retired to paint full-time. Almost entirely self-taught, he sketched masterpieces in the Louvre and was greatly inspired by the jungle, which he saw only in illustrated books and through visits to the Paris Zoo and botanical gardens. The result was striking, child-like art that was categorized as Naïve or Primitive, which he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants alongside works of Post-Impressionists. Rousseau gained attention (and also mockery) from other artists for the innocence, intensity of feeling and decorative beauty of many of his paintings. Picasso considered him a genius. “The Sleeping Gypsy” (1897, pictured), has become one of the most touching and recognized works in modern art.