Henri Julien Félix Rousseau
(May 21, 1844 September 2, 1910) was a French Post-Impressionist
painter in the Naive or Primitive manner. He is also known as
Le Douanier (the customs officer) after his place of employment.
Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught
genius whose works are of high artistic quality.
His best known paintings depict jungle
scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. Stories
spread by admirers that his army service included the French expeditionary
force to Mexico are unfounded. His inspiration came from illustrated
books and the botanical gardens in Paris, as well as tableaux
of "taxidermified" wild animals. He had also met soldiers,
during his term of service, who had survived the French expedition
to Mexico and listened to their stories of the subtropical country
they had encountered. To the critic Arsène Alexandre, he
described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes: "When
I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic
lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream."
Along with his exotic scenes there
was a concurrent output of smaller topographical images of the
city and its suburbs.
He claimed to have invented a new genre
of portrait landscape, which he achieved by starting a painting
with a view such as a favourite part of the city, and then depicting
a person in the foreground.