Henri Rousseau at Tate Modern
November 5, 2005 11:17 AM   Subscribe

When Henri met Pablo. Wandering through the rue des Martyrs in 1908, Picasso stopped beside an upholstery shop. "A head peered out, the face of a woman, hard eyes, a penetrating look, decisiveness and clarity. The canvas was huge. I enquired about the price. 'A hundred sous,' replied the dealer. 'You can paint over it.' It was one of the truest portraits ever of the French psyche."
Henri Rousseau's five-franc, life-size woman in Van Dyck black stayed at Picasso's side until his death, longer than any flesh-and-blood muse. A century later, she towers over us at Tate Modern's Rousseau retrospective as imperiously as a Velázquez monarch. More inside.
posted by matteo (21 comments total)
"You and I," said Henri Rousseau, sincerely addressing his host Pablo Picasso, "are the two most important artists of the age - you in the Egyptian style, and I in the modern one." Picasso would laugh at the memory along with everyone else.

Stumble in the jungle


First British Rousseau exhibition for 80 years


Le douanier as medium? Henri Rousseau and spiritualism

posted by matteo at 11:20 AM on November 5, 2005

Aaaah Le douanier! An all-time favorite of mine! I suggest reading Roger Shattuck's the Banquet years for more on this fascinating artist and his times.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:42 AM on November 5, 2005

do any of the links show the picture in question?
posted by andrew cooke at 11:46 AM on November 5, 2005

was it this</a.?
posted by andrew cooke at 11:49 AM on November 5, 2005

It's not polite to remind me of the Tate Modern when I'm over six thousand miles away, but a good post nonetheless. Thanks.
posted by gramschmidt at 11:54 AM on November 5, 2005

I had a friend who said, about beer, "Anything you have to learn to like can't be good for you." I wonder if that also applies to art. Yuck! :)

As self-absorbed as he appears to have been, the thought occurs...was Rousseau's fame a prank perpetrated on the world by the art community?
posted by Malor at 11:56 AM on November 5, 2005

posted by gorgor_balabala at 11:58 AM on November 5, 2005

yes, andrew cooke, sorry, I screwed that up. it's her, usually she's at the Musée Picasso in Paris
posted by matteo at 11:59 AM on November 5, 2005

And, Malor, i also get a bit of a "yuck" reaction to Rousseau, but then i realize that it is in part due to my bigotry. If you have learned to appreciate the important qualities in art -- if you have spent any time appreciating the presence of a human figure within a painting for example -- you will at least see that R. hits a lot of targets, just maybe targets that you personally may not know very well. For example, reference the tiger in a storm painting. It would be difficult not to be struck by the beauty of the moment he portrays.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:02 PM on November 5, 2005

Thanks, andrew cooke, I was hoping someone would find that.

Malor: "Anything you have to learn to like can't be good for you."

Yeah, and the reverse is also true.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:13 PM on November 5, 2005

gorgor, actually, I had included a paragraph that said "Wow,
that tiger painting is cool, though", but struck it at the last minute. It sort of detracted from the main point. :)

I just found it mildly amusing to think about the possibility that it was all a hoax. :)
posted by Malor at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2005

Great post. I have never cared for his painting, but I can appreciate the work and his influence. He was one Frida Kahlo's favourite painters, and while some of her works aren't far removed from his stylistically, they have just got so much more going for them. And I'm not somebody who reads easily into these bleeding woman fantasies.

I once read a lengthy account of the famous dinner Picasso held for Rousseau - it was excellent. I love reading about the gatherings of great minds. It's doubly fascinating if they have all yet to rise to prominence.
posted by fire&wings at 1:00 PM on November 5, 2005

Excellent post, excellent links - I kiss you, matteo!
posted by madamjujujive at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2005

This is wonderful matteo - I love Rousseau; it was so cool to go and see Sleeping Gypsy again at Moma recently after many years; you forget how direct his painting is in reality, and how much of an impact it has. I could spend forever looking at Rousseau; I wish I could get to London for the show.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:33 PM on November 5, 2005

I could spend forever looking at Rousseau

every once in a while, very very rarely -- probably because I couldn't really take more, even though I want to -- in my dreams trees and fields are drenched in Rousseau's impossible green. then I wake up, and the world is black and white -- low contrast black and white as in expired film stock, to be precise -- for days.
posted by matteo at 3:05 PM on November 5, 2005

matteo, are you serious? that's wild & something i've never heard of before. they must be drenched in more than just rousseau green, it's not all THAT vibrant -- sure you don't have any electrical problems in your house?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 5:08 PM on November 5, 2005

Great post. I wish there was a link to a decent sized pic of the painting though.
posted by xammerboy at 6:57 PM on November 5, 2005

Nice post matteo. Though I have never really been wild about H.R.'s work, I can see why people do love it.

One thing that comes to mind about Picasso and the story of finding the painting ... Its been my experience that artists often have the best art collections. (Sol Lewitt being a good example.) They can be VERY ecclectic, open minded and inclusive. Art is where one finds it.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:51 PM on November 5, 2005

I'm very fond of a lot of the Post Impressionist painters, and I always loved how much fun Rousseau seemed to have with color, yet staying less surreal than the Fauves.

Ile de la Cité, while not a fairly well known painting, is one of my favorites (bigger image of the painting.).
posted by dejah420 at 7:56 PM on November 5, 2005

I just had the pleasure of seeing the Cezanne & Pissaro show here in Los Angeles, and one of the things that struck me was how similar the greens were in some Cezannes - big bold swathes of greens - to Rousseau's.
posted by goofyfoot at 11:22 PM on November 6, 2005

I'm late to the thread, and I wish I had something worthwhile to add, but I just wanted to say that I love Rousseau, and I enjoyed visiting every one of the links.

(this work is a favorite of mine, and is one of my favorite desktops snatched from the webmuseum.)
posted by taz at 7:34 AM on November 7, 2005

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