Henri Rousseau and I


No, that’s not me on the couch, but Henri Rousseau and I do have a relationship. Like Henri, I loved art as a child and would spend hours drawing. He, too, was discouraged by his middle class parents on pursing a life in the arts, and was pushed into something practical. I, into initially training to be a math teacher, he, as a lawyer. Eventually he retired from a government job as a custom’s agent, and I as an art teacher. When he retired at 49, he devoted his time to painting. He would go to the museum and sketch and paint. He was self taught, and his jungle scenes of which The Dream is part, were entirely from his imagination. When I saw his works in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. many years ago, I was immediately struck by how these paintings reminded me of the medieval tapestries I had seen at the Cluny museum. The colors were rich, the perspective flat, yet layered. In looking for this painting, I read that art historians think he did see the tapestries at the Cluny and these may have influenced his style. Even though I trained as an art teacher, I must say I am self taught as well. During the ’70’s the “academic” side of drawing was ignored and abstract expressionism was favored. I taught myself how to teach drawing, and thus learned the basics of drawing. Now for the immediate connection to Henri Rousseau. Tonight I brought a few printed reproductions of Rousseau’s jungle scenes, plus some of my own sketches to a producer of a local community theater in order to be considered as a scenic designer for their upcoming children’s production of “The Jungle Book”. I, thanks to Henri’s inspiration, will be working on the production.

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