Henri Rousseau

Henri RousseauHenri Rousseau was a French Post-Impressionist painter. He was a self-taught painter who started his craft late at 40 years old. He was also known as "Le Douanier", or the customs inspector, after his employment background. He was not as accomplished as a painter during his lifetime as his paintings were widely criticized and ridiculed. It was only later on that his works were widely recognized as teeming with high artistic quality.

Background

Henri Rousseau was born on May 21, 1844 in Laval, France. His father was a plumber who worked to make ends meet and struggled to raise his family. Henri went to school at Laval High School, even after the time that his family have to leave the town when their home was seized due to mounting debts.

Early on, Henri already showed a keen interest in the arts. He would have wanted to pursue a career as an artist. But the kind of modest life that his father was able to provide prevented him from doing so. After finishing high school, Henri worked for a lawyer for a short time before joining the French Army in 1863. He served there for four years.

Early Career

After a brief career in the military after his father’s death in 1868, Henri Rousseau relocated in Paris and took a job at the French Customs department in order to help support his widowed mother. As a government employee, Henri collected customs fees at a toll station from local farmers bringing their produce to the markets in Paris. It was during this time that he came to be associated by his later nickname, Le Douanier, the customs inspector.

Painting Career

Henri’s job as a customs collector gave him the time to pursue his love for painting. In his 40’s, he started to devote himself in learning how to paint. He was claimed to be a generally self-taught painter without ever taking formal training except taking advice from some of the established painters and artists that he came to know.

In 1885, Henri started to exhibit his works annually on the Salon des Independents, which exhibits avant-garde art. This establishment also has no jury or admission procedure where any artist may be able to have their art exhibited in exchange for a fee.

Painting Characteristics

Henri’s works were flat and drawn in a seemingly childish style which garnered him a lot of critics who offered nothing but ridicule for his paintings. But there were also some people who begin to see the complexity of his work despite its simplistic style. His jungle scenes became his best known works. Henri Rousseau died on September 2, 1910 in Paris.

 
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