Musée d'Orsay: Henri Rousseau Jungles in Paris

Henri Rousseau Jungles in Paris

Henri Rousseau
 La charmeuse de serpents [The Snake Charmer]
 Oil on canvas
 H. 169; W. 189.5 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay, bequest of Jacques Doucet, 1936
Henri RousseauThe Snake Charmer© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Henri Rousseau, an entirely self-taught artist known as "the douanier" because of his day-job as a menial clerk at the Paris City Customs, transcended his modest social station through his painting.

Though he never left France, Rousseau painted his "Jungles" drawing inspiration from popular imagery and the stories of the day, and so made a name for himself as the pioneer of the new exoticism. The exhibition includes a dozen of these exotic paintings, which express a variety of moods: from wild beast fights and terrifying forests, to tranquil scenes where Rousseau has used facetious monkeys in place of people.

These exotic canvases are juxtaposed with self-portraits and portraits, views of Paris and its suburbs and allegorical paintings, all of which elucidate the artist's creative approach; Rousseau along with Gauguin, although in a very different sense, was one of the precursors of Primitivism. Some of the pictures exude an underlying sense of menace which prefigures the palpable apprehension in the jungle paintings of almost ten years later. Rousseau is a master of the art of giving a strange edge to the familiar and, in this respect, he anticipates surrealism. Nowadays he is considered as a precursor of 20th-century art.


Frances Morris, Tate Modern
Christopher Green, Courtauld Institute
Claire Frèches-Thory, General Curator, Musée d'Orsay
with the participation of Vincent Gilles, Pavillon des Arts, for the documentary sections and Nancy Ireson, Courtauld Intitute, for the catalogue

Exhibition organised by the Tate Modern, the Musée d'Orsay and the Réunion des musées nationaux

Exhibition also shown at:
London, Tate Modern, from November 3, 2005 to February 5, 2006
Washington, National Gallery, from July 16 to October 15, 2006


48/14, La revue du musée d'Orsay, issue # 21, Autumn 2005
Musée d'Orsay / Réunion des musées nationaux
€ 11

Exhibition catalogue
Henri Rousseau, Jungles in Paris
Réunion des musées nationaux
€ 36

15 March - 19 June 2006

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais

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