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Indepth Arts News:

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris"
2006-07-16 until 2006-10-15
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC, USA

The late-blooming career of Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), a self-taught French artist and savvy connoisseur of popular culture in the late 19th century, will be showcased in the first major American retrospective of the artist’s work in 20 years. Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris, on view at the National Gallery of Art, East Building, July 16 through October 15, 2006—the only U.S. venue—celebrates the broad range of his work: landscapes of Paris and environs, allegories, portraits, as well as the largest grouping ever assembled of his iconic jungle paintings. An extensive display of more than 100 documents, popular ephemera, and other source material will shed light on Rousseau’s artistic ambitions, working method, and the world he inhabited. The exhibition was on view at Tate Modern, November 3, 2005 through February 5, 2006, and the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, March 15 through June 19, 2006.

“Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris presents a rare opportunity to explore the work of this intriguing artist and to understand how it set the stage for some of the groundbreaking innovations of modernism,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are proud to present this dynamic exhibition with loans from public and private collections worldwide to the American public.”

The exhibition was organized by Tate Modern, London, and Réunion des musées nationaux and Musée d’Orsay, Paris, in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Exhibition Support and Organization

Major support for this exhibition was provided by the George Andreas Foundation.

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the National Automobile Dealers Association.

“The National Automobile Dealers Association is pleased to be part of the Henri Rousseau exhibition. Our partnership with the National Gallery of Art is but one way auto retailers are continuing their generous support of the arts,” said Phillip D. Brady, president, National Automobile Dealers Association.

The exhibition is sponsored by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)

Born in the market town of Laval, France, Henri Rousseau moved to Paris in 1868 and remained there for the rest of his life. He served as a customs clerk on the outskirts of the city, a post which earned him the nickname “Le Douanier” (the customs agent). A self-taught artist, Rousseau was unable to paint full time until his early retirement in 1893. Despite these unfavorable circumstances, Rousseau had grand ambitions, hoping to join the refined artists of the conservative French Academy. As an outsider, Rousseau was unfamiliar with the rules of the artistic establishment. Although he worked in traditional genres, producing landscapes, portraits, allegories, and exotic scenes, they were transformed in his hands, made odd in a way that provoked ridicule by traditionalists. Often Rousseau turned to the popular culture of his time and class—illustrated magazines, dime-store adventure novels, postcards, and photographs—integrating its dramatic subjects and bold graphic style into his paintings

Rousseau was best known for his bold pictures of the jungle, overflowing with flora and fauna. But this painter of exotic locales never left France; his exotic paintings were the concoctions of a city dweller, shaped by visits to the botanical gardens, the zoo, colonial expositions, and images of distant lands seen in books and magazines. Towards the end of his life, Rousseau was championed by a younger generation of avant-garde painters, writers, and their associates, including Pablo Picasso and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who saw in his work new possibilities for the future in his work. In 1911, the year after his death, the Salon des Indépendants celebrated his achievements with an exhibition of more than 40 paintings.

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