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Henri_Rousseau Self-portrait_of_the_Artist_with_a_Lamp

At Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland, there is one of the most astonishing exhibitions about Henri Rousseau artwork. It is the first time, for years, someone gathered so many master pieces from the “Douanier”. 39 paintings from the artist. The commissioners for the exhibition are Christopher Green and Philippe Buttner. This one wrote an article on Le Monde  last month about the incredible collection.

Henri Julien Félix Rousseau was born in May 21st 1844 and died in September 2nd 1910 in Paris. He is more than a Pionnier, Henri Rousseau could be considered as a Rebel with a cause! Being totally against the classical influence of the 18th Century, he considered himself as a Post-impressionist painter in a Naive or primitive manner. His speciality : painting incredible jungle landscapes and life scenes… It is an extraordinary work for someone who never went to a real jungle. Why this ? Some people say he did not have enough money for the travel. I would say he did not want to compare the jungle landscapes coming from his imagination to the real ones. He would be too afraid to be disappointed and then loose all inspiration.

He is worldwide known as “The Douanier’ because during his young days he worked as a customs officer.

Since his first public appearence, he always exhibited in the Salon des Indépendants. This Salon was created in Paris in 1884 (When Rousseau was born 🙂 ) and the main concept was : “No Jury, no awards”. Basically, art for art. All trends in art of the early 20th century were first displayed and widely discussed there.

During the exhibition I saw most of Rousseau Master pieces, here my prefered ones.

I need to start with the one which makes me dream and dream : The Snake Charmer, 1907.

Rousseau, Serpent Charmer

Something totally hypnotic and almost narcotic. A luxurious beauty lost in a tremendous rich and nocturne landscape. I think the Snake charmer also charms the spectator… magic.

The Hungry Lion throws Itself on the Antelope, 1905

Rousseau, The Lion and the Antelope
Rousseau, The Lion and the Antelope

This painting was presented for the first time at Le Salon des Independents in 1905. Close by there was the work of the young Henri Matisse. Rousseau’s Lion may even has influenced the name “Fauve” among Fauvistes…

All of this and much more is at Fondation Beyeler in Basel until May 9th 2010.