|Self-Portrait, 1890, Henri Rousseau|
Perhaps the best-loved of all naive artist was the French painter, Henri Rousseau. Born in 1844, in his youth he lived and traveled in Mexico, playing in a military band. Later, returning to Paris, he married, started a family, and settled down with a routine job in a customs house. But the wilds of Mexico had left an indelible impression. He began to paint that which was within him. His style we would call primitive. He was as untrained as was possible, given the times in which he lived. He had no thought of selling his work or making a name for himself. However, with his trademark painter's smock and black beret, he seems to have very much relished the "image" of the artist. His paintings of snarling tigers, peaceful lions, sleeping Arabs, and fanciful jungle vegetation, are charming and decorative, strong in what seems to have been an instinctive sense of color and good compositional design. His work is often compared favorably with that of Paul Gauguin's Tahitian paintings, though Gauguin's primitive style was studied, rather than natural.
|Exotic Landscape, 1908,|
Perhaps the most exceptional thing about Rousseau's work was the fact that each was a personal expression of his nostalgia for his exciting glory days in the Mexican wilderness. He cared little for the fact he could not draw from nature and though he admired the work of Delacroix and Gericault, he perhaps considered himself to old to emulate them or burden himself with their academic accuracy. His strength as an artist was his fun-loving, totally idealistic freedom to express that which he loved most without regard for the niceties of the natural over the idealistic.