Henri Rousseau, the Dream, 1910. Oil on you, 204, 5cmx299cm. MoMA, New York


Quick biography:

Born in 1844 in the family house in Laval, in the west of France, Henri Rousseau showed his talent for the arts throughout his schooling and won prizes for his music. Despite his abilities, his parents could not afford him a school. He entered the army and then entered the services of the grant in Paris, hence his nickname "customs". He began painting in his spare time and from 1885, became a regular exhibitor at the Paris Independents ' Salon where painters such as Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) or Odilon Redon (1840-1916) marveled at the novelty of his vision.

Composing his paintings from photographs carved in the press, Henri Rousseau proclaimed himself a "realist" painter. Self-taught, he consolidated his knowledge with the help of talented professors. It produces a large number of canvases, which often represent jungle landscapes. Yet he never left France. His inspiration comes mainly from illustrated books, botanical gardens and meetings with soldiers who had participated in the French intervention in Mexico.

His paintings show an elaborate technique, but their childish appearance has earned a lot of mockery for Henri Rousseau. Accustomed to the Salon of the Independents, he began to receive positive reviews from 1891, and met some other artists at the end of his life, such as Marie Lee, Robert Delaunay, Paul Signac, Guillaume Apollinaire, Edgar Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso. His work is now regarded as crucial to naive art and has influenced many artists, including Surrealists.

In 1893, he devoted himself entirely to his art. encouraged and supported by the poets and artists of the avant-garde who see in this "primitivist" one of the fathers of modernity in painting, he presents three paintings at the autumn Salon of 1905 among the "Fawns". 
His apparent naivety was acquired. He made portraits, urban landscapes and large paintings of jungles that became famous.

Paul Éluard said of him: "What he saw was only love and will always make us émerveillés1 eyes." »


The Dream:

The painter represents a young nude (Yadwiga, former Polish friend of Rousseau and a generic nude, whose elongated form crosses the whole history of the Art1) on a red sofa, surrounded by giant lotus flowers, and who listens, in the middle of the jungle, the flute of a Charmer.



Strangely, the aspect that can jump to the eye is the ubiquity of green, despite the many details dotting the painting. Usually Rousseau always started his paintings with this pigment. There are also more than Fifty Shades here: the fading in all its tones, ranging from the brightest to the darkest, the dream shows a subtle camaïeu! Moreover, if we look more closely at the value of the colors of this painting, we realize that the artist used mainly only one part of the chromatic circle: the green and the blue. And in order to highlight certain details, Rousseau used their complementary (opposite colours in the chromatic range), as for the orange snake in the tall grasses, or the fruit in the tree.



While these plastic processes seem harmless, they offer the canvas a perfect and pleasing harmony in the eyes of the spectator.

His way of painting is therefore very orderly and important to underline:

If the flora and fauna are the scenery, the human is still present. First of all, The naked woman: lying on a sofa, she looks to the right, tending her hand. Some have seen in this character an allusion to the last love of the painter's life, unfortunately not shared. The dream would then suggest the emotional turmoil in which Rousseau was plunged during his last days (he dies on December 2, 1910). However, there is nothing to identify this woman because we do not know the source of her inspiration.

In a poem attached to his canvas, the artist nevertheless speaks of her:

Yadwigha in a beautiful dream/having fallen asleep softly/heard the sounds of a bag/which played a well-meaning charmer./Pendant that the moon reflects/on the flowers, green trees,/Les fawns snakes lend Ear/cheerful airs of The instrument.


The development of Yadwigha is the same as that of nature: the outlines are reinforced by a luminous edging. The solid bordeaux of the sofa detaches the pink body from the greenery, playing the strong contrast between the clear and the obscure.

The other person present in this painting is the player of the sack, carrying the young woman in this dream. Like a snake charmer, he captivates his audience and animates the plants, endorsing the role of Morph.

Rousseau's dream shows a clear return to nature. In the vivid clarity of a full moon night, the artist tells us a dreamlike story. The young woman has dozed off on her sofa and is transported to a charming world, probably far from her daily life. Like an Eve installed under the tree of Sin, Yadwigha seems to find his paradise Lost.

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