Interpreting Henri Rousseau by Nancy Ireson

Henri Rousseau is at once one of the most popular and one of the most enigmatic artists of the modern era. 'Interpreting' his work presented no less of a problem for his contemporaries than it does for us today. Different accounts of his life and art make him out to be either the starting point for modernism on the one hand or a naive, 'primitive' artist, cut off from the developments around him, on the other. What was it about his paintings that fascinated contemporaries like Picasso and the Surrealists? And what was it about his personality and social status that meant he never became part of the avant-garde? This carefully researched yet highly readable book will attempt to reveal the truth behind the myths that have grown up around Rousseau. Richly illustrated throughout with full colour reproductions of the paintings and contemporary photographs, it provides an ideal introduction to this most intriguing of artists. The author shows that while Rousseau was deeply rooted in his petit-bourgeois background, he did engage with the modern world, portraying the Eiffel Tower, flying machines and the changing face of the city. His exotic jungle scenes, based on his trips to the Botanical Gardens, reflect the growth of the leisure and tourist industries and his borrowings from popular source material helped create imagery that is a startlingly original combination of the real and the imaginary.

Publisher: The Tate Gallery

Date published: 2005

Format: Paperback