Fig. 20 – 28 Paintings by Rousseau and Pirosmani (Unknown date)

Painters like Niko Pirosmani and Henri Rousseau have created wonderful visions of nature. One of Rousseau’s paintings can be seen in the National Gallery in London. At some point in my project I would like to relate to the image of the Garden of Eden. I consider using elements from this theme in my designs.

On Rousseau

His nickname refers to the job he held with the Paris Customs Office (1871-93), although he never actually rose to the rank of `Douanier’ (Customs Officer). Before this he had served in the army, and he later claimed to have seen service in Mexico, but this story seems to be a product of his imagination. He took up painting as a hobby and accepted early retirement in 1893 so he could devote himself to art.

His character was extraordinarily ingenuous and he suffered much ridicule (although he sometimes interpreted sarcastic remarks literally and took them as praise) as well as enduring great poverty. However, his faith in his own abilities never wavered. He tried to paint in the academic manner of such traditionalist artists as Bouguereau and Gérôme, but it was the innocence and charm of his work that won him the admiration of the avant-garde: in 1908 Picasso gave a banquet, half serious half burlesque, in his honor. Rousseau is now best known for his jungle scenes, the first of which is Surprised! (Tropical Storm with a Tiger) (National Gallery, London, 1891) and the last The Dream (MOMA, New York, 1910). These two paintings are works of great imaginative power, in which he showed his extraordinary ability to retain the utter freshness of his vision even when working on a large scale and with loving attention to detail. He claimed such scenes were inspired by his experiences in Mexico, but in fact his sources were illustrated books and visits to the zoo and botanical gardens in Paris.

Source: Pioch, N (2002)

On Naive Painting

Incidentally, we must abandon once and for all the idea of the Henri Rousseau as an artist who was naive and unpolished. Even before devoting himself entirely to painting, Henri Rousseau came to know the museums and visited exhibitions. He was familiar with the artworks of all eras, at least through photographic reproduction (which were more widespread than is believed). Before him, Van Gogh had dealt with many such reproductions at Goupil’s gallery. Even though he never received any academic training, Henri Rousseau, albeit awkwardly and incompletely, knew and assimilated the principles of such instruction. Also, countless how-to-paint handbooks were in circulation, teaching the principles of art and perspective, of landscapes and portraits. Henri Rousseau got hold of such manuals, as proved by many of his canvases, notably the view of Paris based on a precisely calculated manipulation of planes and vanishing traces. One even feels that Henri Rousseau is trying to flaunt newly acquired knowledge here.

Source: Unknown Author (Unknown date) Henri Rousseau, and his paintings