|Merry Jesters by Henri Rousseau (1906) Philadelphia Museum of Art|
|Girl with a Doll by Henri Rousseau (1904-05) Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris|
|The Snake Charmer by Henri Rousseau (1907) Musée d'Orsay, Paris|
|Black Spot by Wassily Kandinsky (1912) Hermitage, St. Petersburgh|
|The Poultry Yard (1896-98) Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris|
|Myself, Portrait-Landscape (1889-90) Prague National Gallery|
|The Carriage of Father Junier (1908) Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris|
In 1869, Rousseau married his landlady's 19-year-old daughter, Clemence, whose father, too, had recently died after gambling all his money away; her mother was a seamstress. When Prussia invaded France in 1870, he signed up to be a simple soldier, but was soon exempted. His first child died in infancy during the Siege of Paris in 1871 when people were starving; as life went on, he would lose all his six children but one.
|The War - The Ride of Discord (1894) Musée d'Orsy, Paris|
“The War, terrifying, she passes, leaving despair, crying and ruin everywhere.”
|Carnival Evening by Rousseau (1886) Philadelphia Museum of Art|
Rousseau then became an annual fixture at the Salon des Indépendants despite receiving cruel reviews from the critics who called it the work of a "10-year-old child" and "the scribblings of a 6-year-old whose mother left him with colors." For the 4th Salon des Indépendants in 1888, he entered five paintings and five drawings. That same year, Vincent van Gogh, who had moved to Paris in 1886, entered three. Four days after the 4th Salon des Indépendants closed, Rousseau's beloved wife, Clemence, died on May 7, 1888 of tuberculosis, leaving him heartbroken. Ten years later, he married his second wife, Josephine Noury, who died within four years.
|Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised) by Henri Rousseau (1891) National Gallery London|
“Monsieur Rousseau becomes more and more astonishing each year, but he commands attention and, in any event, is earning a nice little reputation and having his share of success: people flock around his submissions and one can hear the sound of laughter. In addition he is a terrible neighbor, as he crushes everything else. His tiger surprising its prey ought not to be missed; it is the alpha and omega of painting . . . . As a matter of fact, not everyone laughs, and some who begin to do so are quickly brought up short. There is always something beautiful about seeing a faith, any faith, so pitilessly expressed. For my part, I have a sincere esteem for such efforts, and I would a hundred times rather them than the deplorable mistakes nearby."
The Salon Wars continued in Paris. In 1903, Felix Vallaton was part of group that created yet another new Salon, the Salon d'Automne in opposition to all other Parisian exhibitions, which caused all sorts of uproar in the art world. Henri Rousseau was sucked into the vortex of the Salon d'Automne, and in 1905, the 61-year-old struggling artist found himself in the same room as the 35-year-old Henri Matisse and 25-year-old André Derain along with his Hungry Lion -- and Fauvism was born.
|The Hungry Lion by Rousseau (1905) Beyeler Foundation, Basel|
The lion, being hungry, throws itself on the antelope, [and] devours it. The panther anxiously awaits the moment when it too can claim its share. Birds of prey have each torn a piece of flesh from the top of the poor animal which sheds a tear. The sun sets.
|Horse Attacked by a Jaguar (1910) State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow|
Now Guillaume Apollinaire, writer, poet, art critic and guru of the avant-garde asked to meet Rousseau. Apollinaire then introduced Rousseau to Pablo Picasso, who had bought Rousseau's Portrait of a Woman on sale for five francs from a Paris junk shop, which was selling it for the canvas. In 1908, the 27-year-old Picasso held the famous banquet to "celebrate" Henri Rousseau, then 64, a lavish artisty kind of prank to play. Guillaume Apollinaire composed a satirical poem, praising Rousseau's adventures in the Aztec jungle, poking fun of Rousseau's long subtitles for his paintings. Also at the banquet were Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who recorded the event in her autobiography.
The images you paint you saw in Mexico,
A red sun lit the banana treetops,
And you, courageous soldier, have swapped your tunic
For the blue jacket of the brave douanier.
Even though the banquet began in jest, it morphed into a genuine celebration, a drunken chorus of the avant-garde shouting "Viva, viva Rousseau!"
|Portrait of a Woman by Henri Rousseau (1895) Musée Picasso, Pari|
The Grand Exhibit Henri Rousseau - Archaic Naivety runs from March 6 to July 5, 2015.
Please go to the PALAZZO DUCALE for further information.
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog