Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rousseau, Henri

Flowers in a Vase (Bouquet de fleurs)
oil on canvas
45.4 x 32.7 cm
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, USA

Henri Julien Felix Rousseau (1844 - 1910), French painter, was the most celebrated of naive artists.  He was, from the first, entirely self-taught, and his work remained consistently naive and imaginative. He is known as Le Douanier (the customs officer) because before he retired to paint, he held a minor post in the Paris customs service, although he never actually rose to the rank of Douanier. 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 as well as enduring great poverty. However, his faith in his own abilities never wavered. He was a regular contributor to Paris exhibitions, but during his lifetime, was viewed with amusement and condescension by both the public and fellow artists. He was buried in a pauper's grave, and soon after his death Rousseau's greatness began to be widely acknowledged. Rousseau came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality, though ridiculed during his life.
"I hate books. They only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about." Rousseau claimed he had "no teacher other than nature".