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Henri Julien Rousseau was a self-taught French painter. His artworks became primarily known for his representations of lush jungle landscapes with vivid use of color. The artist developed a highly distinctive style of painting.
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau was born in 1844 in the city of Laval, France. He was a son of a tinsmith, and since very young, he was forced to work. As a boy, he studied at the Laval High School he then became a border student due to his father’s many debts, their parents even had to leave town after the seizure of their house. Rousseau’s performance in high school was mediocre in most disciplines, except music and drawing, which he even won prizes.
After graduating high school, Rousseau began to study law and work for a lawyer for a brief time, and with 19 years, he joined the army, for which he served for four years. After his father’s death, he moved to Paris to aid his widowed mother, where he worked as a government employee. Meanwhile, the artist started to practice painting.
Rousseau never had any form of formal art education. Instead, the artist thaught himself by copying artworks in the museums of Paris, as well as by sketching in natural history museums and botanical gardens. Probably because of the lack of said formal training, Rousseau would develop a highly personal style of painting.
Rousseau’s artworks have a “Naive” quality, depriving his compositions of perspective and human anatomy, the artist created dreamlike compositions, intensified by the use of vivid colors and non-realistic scales into dramatic results.
Several of Rousseau’s most famous artworks are compositions depicting human figures surrounded by jungle and wild animals. His earliest painting in such molds was Tiger in a Tropical Storm Surprised, executed in 1891.
Although Rousseau’s paintings were never accepted or understood by the conservative official art circles of Paris, the artist was able to exhibit several times at the annual exhibitions promoted by the Societe des Artistes Independants. He continued to attend open and unjuried exhibitions until the end of his life. His artworks were also appreciated by well established and respected artists, such as Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro.
By 49 years old, Rousseau was able to devote himself exclusively to art. By that time, he met distinguished avant-garde artists, such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Marie Laurencin, Max Jacob, and Pablo Picasso. Said artists all came to admire and respect Rousseau’s paintings. However, throughout his career, the artist made little income from his artworks.
Henri Julien Rousseau died in Paris, on September 2, 1910.