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Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
Henri, from Laval, France, and dubbed “Le Douanier” (customs officer) after his occupation found primitive art late in life. He at once mastered a landscape formula, and beginning after 1904 created more than twenty large fanatistic jungle paintings. They evidence his mastery of a formal language, oblivious of convention, that owes nothing to traditional methods. The images, smooth, vivid, and clearly defined, are flat and fluid against dense but dimensionless greenery, and although unreal and extraordinary, are rendered in meticulous botanical detail.
Centennial of Independence
Football Players
Tiger and Bull
Fortifications
Surprised
Fight
Exotic Landscape

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A Centennial of Independence
Oil on canvas 44 x 61 7/8 in. Getty Museum
  

Henri Rousseau commemorated the one-hundredth anniversary of the proclamation of the first French Republic in 1792. Peasants dance the farandole, a popular southern French dance, around three liberty trees and two female figures representing the First and Third Republics. Rousseau copied the dancers from a French magazine illustration but added waving banners, the liberty poles, and the allegorical figures. A wagon in the background is full of costumed musicians, reminiscent of parades the artist had seen. He used brilliant colors and solid forms to express the happiness of the scene symbolizing good government. To the right, the erect posture of the dignified republican leaders signals the solidity of the French Republic.
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