Among the eminent artists, the majority have studied painting at the appropriate institutions, some of them casted studies soon, seeing in academies the absence of self-expression freedom. The artist we are going to talk about haven`t been studying in schools of painting either, he just loved art and painting was able to change his life abruptly even though the rules of society.
Henri Rousseau was born on May 21st, 1844 in Laval, France. In youth Henri didn`t even had an idea that whenever he would consider to be the great artist and have the followers. He worked in a custom house. Later, when he left that job and associated his life with art, his friends who were artists, called Rousseau “Le Douanier” (customs officer) yet, with its nickname he became famous. However, his monotonous service didn`t limited Rousseau`s fantasies. The imagination of usual clerk created the most unexpected figures and combinations. In the 1880es the “customs officer” got familiar with other significant artists and opened his own studio. At the same time Henri Rousseau started to participate in exhibitions. Salon des Independants, created by avant-gardists, was a place where Rousseau felt comfortable among other masters, in contradiction to the official salons, there he wasn`t criticized for primitivism in the artworks. Trying to feed himself and his family, the widower Henri Rousseau worked on his making a name in theworld of art, gave music lessons, labored much. Only by the end of his life the artist`s art had finally been estimated. His paintings pleased the giants of art as Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso. But the wide fame and recognition he got only years later after his death.
Many criticize primitivism in art like the opposite of classicism and academism, but despite this, having been become a separate style, it has given an opportunity to artists-autodidacts to demonstrate their talent and express their love to painting, doing it without the usual skills only with the intuition.
Henri Rousseau preferred picturing the jungle, forests, wild beasts. On this topic were created practically the majority of paintings and they are the most recognizable among the oeuvre of our artist of this week. This period is usually called “exotic period”. The master got the inspiration for these works not from the exotic countries with tropical forests. These views appeared in his mind after visiting the zoo, the artist just added wildness and expression to them, which we can meet only in the wild nature. In some works are pictured either hunting predators or already with preys, for example: “Jaguar Attacking a Horse”, “The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope”, “Scout Attacked By a Tiger” and others. There are the paintings in which a man appears among those very thicket in a wild environment. From the one hand, he is also a child of nature, and from the other, he fears its virgin lands, where the element and the world of animals reign.
One of the most interesting paintings with this idea is “Beauty and the Beast”. It pictures either a wolf or a savage dog, attacking a nude maiden. The picture is full of strain and fear, a woman seems a powerless to withstand a rabid beast. This is a real scene of violence, where the victim is a human. Nature can be cruel to a human, interfering to its usual course of life, like a human himself is frequently cruel to nature. There is another interpretation: a demon in image of a wolf attacks a girl – a plot of different fairy tales and middle age myths.
In the famous canvas “The Dream” – in the contrary – a man is in the harmony with the environment and its creatures. Here were again can see a naked woman, lying, surprisingly, on a sofa, and around her there are fruit trees, bizarre flowers of gigantic shapes, birds, lions and playing a pipe dark-skinned man from a tribe. All the beauty around is a dream of the character, in which the jungle with its inhabitants relate her like their own. Peacefulness in her view wafts us dreams about this fairy world, where people from the civilized society are excess and can hardly survive.