Detail from Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!), 1891
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About the Artist
Henri Rousseau is best known for his lush jungle scenes, often painted with figures relaxing in peaceful poses. He was a self taught artist who began painting in 1880 after a twenty-year career as a customs officer. While attempting to seek recognition for his work, he was rejected by the Salon in 1885, but was accepted the following year by the jury-free Societe des Artistes Independants.
Rousseau's art has generally been considered avant-garde, although there is evidence of the Neo-Classicist influence in his precise definition of forms and the smooth finish to his paintings. Knowing little about linear or atmospheric perspective, he laid the elements in his scenes across the picture surface, suggesting space by a succession of planes stacked one on top of the other up the canvas, so that forms on the horizon were as crisply defined as those nearby.
His paintings were very tautly organized in two-dimensional terms, and his simplification and stylized renderings struck a chord with vanguard painters who rejected naturalistic depictions, first with Gauguin and his circle, and later with Picasso and his friends. Today his widely appealing work can be seen in major museum collections around the world.