Renoir to Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
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The Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
Who was Paul Guillaume?
The Artists
Henri Rousseau: An Interactive Story
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National Gallery of Victoria
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Henri Rousseau

 

Interactive version also available

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Henri Rousseau - Old Man Juniet's Trap

 Henri Rousseau,  called ‘Le Douanier’
 Old Man Juniet's Trap, 1908
 Oil on canvas
 97.0 x 129.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN - Gérard Blot

 

Henri Rousseau - The Wedding Party

 Henri Rousseau,  called ‘Le Douanier’
 The Wedding Party, c.1905
 Oil on canvas
 163.0 x 114.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN - C. Jean

 

Henri Rousseau - Child With Doll

 Henri Rousseau,  called ‘Le Douanier’
 Child with Doll, c.1904-1905
 Oil on canvas
 67.0 x 52.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN - C. Jean

 

Henri Rousseau - The Anglers

 Henri Rousseau,  called ‘Le Douanier’
 The Anglers, c.1908-1909
 Oil on canvas
 46.0 x 55.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN - C. Jean

 

Henri Rousseau - Chair Factory in Alfortville

 Henri Rousseau,  called ‘Le Douanier’
 Chair Factory in Alfortville, 1897
 Oil on canvas
 73.0 x 92.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN

 

Henri Rousseau - The Storm-tossed Vessel

 Henri Rousseau,  called ‘Le Douanier’
 The Storm-tossed Vessel, 1899
 Oil on canvas
 54.0 x 65.0cm
 Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
 © Photo RMN

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Who was Henri Rousseau?

Henri Rousseau lived in Paris, France. He loved art, poetry and music. Rousseau did not train as an artist, but enjoyed copying works of art at the Louvre - the famous Paris art museum.

People in Paris loved to explore the great outdoors. Many French artists, including Rousseau, painted scenes of Parisians enjoying themselves.

Henri Rousseau liked nothing better than to paint on a Sunday, his only day off. His friend and neighbour, Claude Juniet the greengrocer, loved Sundays too. Sometimes, they would spend time together exploring the countryside around Paris.

Let's meet Rousseau's friends!

The figures in Henri Rousseau's paintings were often his friends and family. Look at Rousseau's painting, Old Man Juniet's Trap. Let's see who is riding in the trap!

Henri Rousseau is sitting in the front (wearing the yellow hat). Claude Juniet is holding the reins. Madame Juniet rides in the back with Claude Juniet's nieces. Madame Juniet took the photograph that Rousseau used to make this painting. How can she be in the picture too?

Look at the way Henri Rousseau has painted the peoples' faces. They look very serious! In their Sunday-best clothes with such stiff and unnatural poses, Rousseau's figures look like cardboard cut-outs!

Let's look at another painting by Henri Rousseau, The Wedding Party. Once again, the artist has painted himself into the scene. Do you recognise Henri Rousseau in this painting? Do you see any familiar faces? What other similarities can you see?

Henri Rousseau's child-like, flat way of painting is often called Na´ve. Bright colours, attention to detail and a simplified storybook style are characteristic of Na´ve art. Many art critics of the time did not like Na´ve art.

Many modern artists of the 1880s, however, liked this new way of painting. Amedeo Modigliani is one artist who was influenced by the Na´ve art style.

Design, shape and colour

Design, shape and colour are very important in Henri Rousseau's paintings. How does he use them?

Look at Henri Rousseau's painting, Child with Doll. Rousseau has not painted the child exactly as she looks, instead he has changed her appearance by painting her with an enlarged body, full and flattened face and awkward pose. Do you think she is standing or sitting?

Strange poses can be seen in other paintings by Rousseau. Look at the poses of figures in Henri Rousseau's painting, The Wedding Party. Do you think the man to the left of this painting is sitting on the tree stump, leaning on it, or standing in front of it? He almost seems to be floating above it. The bride also seems to be floating above the ground.

Henri Rousseau sometimes used colour to create contrast. Look at Rousseau's painting, Child with Doll. Notice the way the red dress stands out, creating a contrast against the cool blue of the sky.

Look at the way Rousseau has created patterns by painting spots on the dress and flowers on the grass. Rousseau's use of pattern and colour make parts of the painting look very flat and decorative.

Henri Rousseau said: "Nothing makes me happier than to contemplate nature and paint it". His love of nature can be seen in the way he paints. Look at the careful way he has painted each blade of grass and flower petal.

Overlapping shapes

Henri Rousseau has used simple overlapping shapes to create a sense of shallow space. This technique tells our eyes that one object is in front of another - that one object is close, while another object is further away.

Look at the shapes in Rousseau's painting, Old Man Juniet's Trap. Which objects overlap others?

Exploring other artists

Henri Rousseau's style, and the techniques he used to make his paintings, helped him to express his imaginary view of the world around him. This is true of many other modern artists.

When you look at paintings by other modern artists, considering the points below may help you understand what the artist was trying to achieve:

  • Who the artist was, where they lived and the kind of life they experienced.
     
  • The subjects the artist liked to paint.
     
  • The way the artist painted. Look at the way the artist has used design, shape, colour, line and perspective to describe their subject.
     
  • How does the artist's style and technique affect the way you feel about the subject? What emotions do you feel about the subject because of the way it is painted?
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Email: enquiries@ngv.vic.gov.au

 

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